Brown slips from recession to depression

Gordon Brown was accused last night of hiding the true scale of Britain's economic crisis after he said in the House of Commons that there was a global "depression", rather than a recession. The Opposition seized on an off-the-cuff remark during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in which Mr Brown suggested the world is in its first depression since the 1930s. "We should agree... on a monetary and fiscal stimulus that will take the world out of depression," he told David Cameron.

A recession is a downturn in GDP in two successive quarters; a depression is a downturn where GDP declines by more than 10 per cent. George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, said: "The Prime Minister must clarify whether his statement that the world is in 'depression' was a slip of the tongue, or... he knows something we don't know."

Mr Brown's slip undermined his attack on Mr Cameron, whom he accused of running Britain down in the interests of the Conservative Party.

Later, Downing Street insisted that Mr Brown had no "intention going into PMQs to describe the current global situation by using that word". Mr Brown's authority suffered a blow when Charles Clarke, the former Cabinet minister, claimed in an interview published in the New Statesman today, that Tony Blair had lined him up as his successor because he did not want Mr Brown to become Prime Minister. Mr Clarke said Mr Blair intended to make him Foreign Secretary so he could be "a credible opponent to Gordon".