David Cameron Nick Clegg
David Cameron, prime minister, and Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, said they must do more for UK economic growth (Reuters) Reuters

David Cameron has admitted that the coalition government must "redouble its efforts" in promoting economic growth for Britain but refused to row back from his tough austerity programme, as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats seek to draw a line under a turbulent few weeks.

Serious losses in the local elections, troubled cabinet ministers, and a dire economy have led to a series of negative headlines for the government, allowing the opposition Labour Party to get ahead in the polls.

"It is tough right now for families to try and make ends meet. It is a difficult economic situation," Cameron, the Conservative prime minister, told reporters at a tractor manufacturing plant in Essex.

"We can't let up on the difficult decisions we've made.

"When you've got a debt problem we all know you shouldn't keep adding to that debt."

He said that the government must "push for growth" and that "frankly, we need to redouble our efforts".

"We are both in this to try and build something for our country that is worthwhile, rather than what was left by the last government," Cameron said.

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem deputy prime minister who was visiting the Basildon factory with Cameron, said that the coalition set out to "rescue, repair and reform the economy".

He urged people to "bear in mind the enormity of the trauma we suffered back in 2008" and that "we know we need to do more".

Increased lending to small businesses to allow them to grow as well as investment in infrastructure are needed to help grow the UK economy, Clegg said.

The coalition is under pressure to restore public faith in its ability to manage British finances through the current global economic crisis and so has sought to rebrand itself as a fresh start for parliament's next session, which will open with the Queen's speech on 9 May as she lays out the government's legislative priorities for the year.

Cameron and Clegg's stern joint appearance in a gritty manufacturing hub is a world away from May 2010 when they announced the formation of the coalition government in Downing Street's idyllic rose garden, when both men smiled and joked as their two parties became wedded.

Coalition still reeling from local elections

The rebrand comes after a rocky period culminating in a seriously bruising set of losses in the local elections for the government, where Labour made significant gains.

Conservatives lost 328 councillors and control of 10 councils on 4 May, while Liberal Democrats lost 190 councillors and control of one council, as voters punished the coalition partners over the weak UK economy.

Latest forecasts from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest the UK has slipped back into recession after GDP contracted for the second consecutive quarter in the first three months of 2012.

Inflation remains high and there are doubts over how soon it will fall to the government's 2 percent target.

High energy bills, high unemployment, and stagnant wages are also hurting the British population.

The government is accused by some of dogmatically pursuing its austerity programme at the cost of economic growth.

Labour gained 534 councillors and seized control of 22 councils, cementing Ed Miliband as leader of the party.

Miliband had himself faced difficulties with doubts among both Labour party members and outsiders as to if he was a competent and capable leader who could one day be prime minister.

However the barnstorming Labour victory secured his position, though Miliband still has many voters to convince if he is to win a majority at the next general election.

Budget 2012, Jeremy Hunt, and omnishambles

The government's recent troubles, dubbed "omnishambles" by some commentators, stemmed from Chancellor George Osborne's controversial budget on 21 March.

Osborne slashed the 50p top tax rate to 45p, leading to accusations that he was cutting taxes for the richest while cutting services for the poorest.

He and the government also faced criticism for the so-called "granny tax" in the budget.

Pensioners who work enjoy a larger tax-free earnings allowance than those younger than the retirement age, but the government has frozen these allowances which means, when you take into account inflation, it is a real-terms cut that the government says will save them £1bn by 2015.

The government was heavily criticised over the way it handled the fuel crisis, when fuel tanker drivers announced a strike and caused panic buying at the pumps.

Both Cameron and the Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude were accused of acting irresponsibly when they suggested the public should fill up their fuel tanks if they had the chance.

Anger has also been directed at the government over its ties with News Corporation chief executive Rupert Murdoch's media empire, which includes press group News International and broadcaster BSkyB, of which he owns a 39 percent majority stake and wanted to fully take over.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt faced calls to resign after it emerged, via emails published at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics, that his special adviser had been keeping in constant secretive contact with News Corp during Hunt's deliberations on the company's BSkyB takeover bid, providing updates and commentary.

Hunt had been handed the quasi-judicial role on whether to allow the News Corp-BSkyB takeover to go ahead, given concerns over media plurality in Britain.

The decision had originally lay with Business Secretary Vince Cable but had been stripped of the responsibility after he was secretly recorded saying he had "declared war" on Murdoch by journalists posing as constituents.

Labour said Hunt had misled parliament because the culture secretary told the House of Commons that he had published all exchanges between his government department and News Corp.

"Evidently [Hunt] hadn't published all those exchanges because he's now offering to do so some months later," Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme.

"I think it's evident that not only has he breached the Ministerial Code in many, many ways, but even more seriously than that, when he was responsible for acting quasi-judicially on a hugely takeover bid of £8bn, he did not act impartially."