Labour to attack Government on everyday issues

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The Independent Online
LABOUR'S new leadership decided yesterday to play down calls for a realignment of European Community currencies as a means of reducing interest rates, because the issue was too complex for 'ordinary people' to understand.

After the first meeting of the new Shadow Cabinet, John Smith, the party leader, said: 'We will be an attacking Opposition, constantly calling the Government to account for both their actions and their inactivity.

'This summer, we will begin that sustained attack concentrating on the Government's mishandling of the economy.'

Mr Smith added: 'We will call them to account for growing unemployment, their lack of any plans for increased investment and growth in the economy, their failure to act to boost housing and construction and their refusal to use their presidency of the Community to take any co-ordinated action on unemployment and interest rates.'

But when it was pointed out that the new leader had not mentioned a realignment of currencies against a revalued Deutschmark within the European exchange rate mechanism, as a means of easing interest rates, a party spokesman said: 'We are not talking about it because we are talking about unemployment, we are talking about housing, we are talking about bread-and-butter issues in bread-and-butter terms.'

He added: 'Very much one of the purposes of today's exercise was to say that at the moment, the debate is taking place at a level and on a plane which the vast majority of the British people do not understand and are not interested in.'

That statement reflected the view of Mr Smith, who said: 'The people of this country are deeply concerned about unemployment, housing and their personal economic circumstances.

'Unless the Government takes action, the lack of confidence that pervades Britain will continue. Unless they recognise that unemployment is not just a tragedy for the unemployed themselves, but for the country as a whole, there is no prospect of confidence returning. We will concentrate on the issues that really matter, the issues that affect ordinary people.'

Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said last night that Labour planned to 'lead the clamour for a change of policy', with calls for investment incentives, the phased release of local authority housing receipts, and co- ordinated European action on unemployment.

Mr Brown said the Prime Minister had misled the voters during the election with the claim that a Tory victory would ignite recovery, and he will today attack the Government's 'breach of promise' over the creation of 30,000 jobs under the Employment Action programme.

The party spokesman said the Shadow Cabinet had agreed a two-edged campaigning strategy for the run-up to the autumn party conference season, and beyond: attacking the Government for broken promises and calling for a change of policy. The spokesman said: 'We do not accept under any circumstances that there is no alternative to what is happening at the moment. The Government is sitting on its hands and doing nothing . . . they just hope something will turn up.'