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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
science
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried