Cameron: This will be the new age of austerity - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Cameron: This will be the new age of austerity

As Brown enters the twilight zone, Labour is mired in angry recriminations

David Cameron will today attempt to capitalise on the Government's economic difficulties – and present himself as a credible alternative prime minister – with a pledge to impose a "culture of thrift" on Whitehall if the Conservatives win the next general election.

The Tory leader, although refusing to be drawn on his own economic plans, will hit out at Labour's "irresponsibility", which he claims has accelerated Britain's plunge into the deepest recession since the Second World War. He will warn increasingly confident Conservative activists that a Tory government would still mark the onset of "an age of austerity", as it attempts to guide the economy towards recovery.

As Gordon Brown continues his struggle to control the fallout from a sobering Budget last week, the Tory leader will attempt to ensure the Prime Minister does not escape blame for the financial crisis.

Tony Blair was reported to have raised concerns about taxing the rich in response to the deepening crisis, while his former confidants Lord Mandelson, Alastair Campbell and Lance Price have all weighed in with their concerns over the direction of the Labour Party.

In a speech to the Conservative spring forum in Cheltenham, Mr Cameron will say: "At home we're now seeing the reckoning for Labour's economic incompetence. The age of irresponsibility is giving way to the age of austerity. So this is no time for business as usual. There is only one way out of this mess, and that is through massive change. We need a massive culture change at every level of government, so the state is no longer casual, but careful, with public money."

Mr Cameron will promise a new "culture of thrift" under a Conservative government, where ministers and mandarins will be penalised – even sacked – for breaking departmental spending limits. The drive for efficiencies at the centre of government would mark the end for expensive projects including ID cards and the Contact Point child protection database.

However, the Tory leader will not give in to growing demands from senior Tories for a decisive response to Chancellor Alistair Darling's proposal for a 50p tax band for those earning more than £150,000. The new top rate, seen by many Cameron allies as a "trap" designed to draw the Tories into an old-fashioned row over tax, threatened to develop into a problem for Mr Brown yesterday, amid claims that Labour grandees, including Tony Blair, were opposed to the move.

Sources close to the former prime minister were forced to dismiss suggestions that he had expressed "dismay" over the decision to abandon New Labour shibboleths and tax the rich. Blairites within the Cabinet are believed to have argued for the new top-rate tax level to be raised to earnings of £200,000 and over.

The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed "friend" of Mr Blair as saying: "Tony thought the original proposal to raise the top rate to 45p was just about saleable in the current economic circumstances. But he believes taking 50p is not acceptable. He thinks it's a terrible mistake."

A spokesman for Mr Blair, who is in America, said: "Tony Blair has made no comment on the Budget. No one has been authorised to speak on his behalf. Tony Blair continues to be fully supportive of Gordon Brown and the Labour Government."

Another architect of New Labour, Lord Mandelson, warned the party against shifting to the left in response to the economic downturn. In an interview yesterday in The Times, the Business Secretary said: "If we imagine, as some argue, that the antidote to Cameron is left-wing socialism, that the dividing line between us and David Cameron should be to make him a right-winger and us the left-wingers, that will lead to defeat."

Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's former spin-doctor, added to the general feeling of despair after the Budget last week with a downbeat entry on his blog. "I confess to being a bit down after the Budget," Mr Campbell said. "Not for nothing, I guess, is a grim economic situation described as a depression."

Speculation about Mr Brown's future had restarted before the Budget because of the controversy over the Downing Street aide Damian McBride's emails smearing senior Tories. Mr Brown's authority will be further weakened if his proposal for a daily attendance rate, to end the controversy over MP's expenses, is rejected by his own side.

Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, said: "MPs haven't reacted to the Budget with the belief that the problems with the economy have been sorted out."

Lance Price, formerly Mr Campbell's deputy in Downing Street, said New Labour had been left "in a coma" after the Budget. "The prognosis for a recovery in the short term looks bleak. And having delivered three remarkable election victories, the chances of it reviving in time to help secure a fourth are receding every day."

But Mr Brown maintained that the Budget was vital for Britain's recovery from the recession. He told Labour activists at the party's Welsh conference in Swansea it was right that those who had done the best in recent years should pay more tax to help the country through difficult economic times. "I don't like raising taxes," the Prime Minister said. "In fact, we cut the basic rate of tax to 20p. You don't tax for its own sake, only for meeting the needs of our country."

'Can it really be that bad?' hamish mcrae, pages 12-13

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Undergraduates will be able to study beatboxing and performance poetry at one of Europe’s leading conservatoires for the first time, after the Guildhall School of Music and Drama revealed plans for a “groundbreaking” degree course.

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week