David Cameron came under fire after he ended the political truce on the economy by branding Gordon Brown’s policies a “complete and utter failure”. In a hard-hitting speech to a City audience, Mr Cameron accused the Prime Minister of using the financial crisis to close down debate about its causes and “hide the truth” about his failures.
Denying that he was “talking Britain down”, Mr Cameron said: “I will never pull my punches in explaining how this Government has brought Britain down. Gordon Brown is hoping that his whirlwind of summitry will mean we will forget what has come before … But I won’t forget, and the British people won’t forget. He cannot hide from his mistakes. He cannot hide from the truth. The truth is that over the past 10 years, Britain has built up more personal debt than any other major economy in history.”
Mr Cameron insisted his support for the deal to rescue ailing British banks did not mean the Tories subscribed to Labour’s entire economic policy.
Yvette Cooper, the Treasury Chief Secretary, accused Mr Cameron of playing “juvenile political games”, saying his bi-partisan approach had been exposed as a “short-term gimmick”.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, described Mr Cameron’s speech as “the worst kind of politics”. He added: “People want practical help at a time of recession not Westminster political point-scoring.”
Arguing that the country needed a change of government to repair its “broken economy”, Mr Cameron promised a range of proposals to help the British people survive the downturn. He said: “The failure to regulate US sub-prime mortgages was an American failure. And the failure to regulate public and private debt in Britain was a British failure.”
Ridiculing Mr Brown’s claim to be a “rock of stability”, he said a Prime Minister who recently spoke of a “golden age” for the City was now talking about “an age of irresponsibility”. Although Tories called for light-touch City regulation until recently, Mr Cameron denied the meltdown suited centre-left rather than centre-right parties. He had always based strategy on “responsibility”, not “freedom”.
“We have had irresponsible capitalism presided over by irresponsible government. Instead, what we need is responsible free enterprise, regulated and supported by responsible government.”
Mr Cameron said Britain was paying the price for Mr Brown’s decision as Chancellor to ride a “wave of debt-fuelled growth” to pay for Labour’s public spending promises. “The result was a combination of irresponsible capitalism and irresponsible government that has brought us to instability and our present crisis,” he said.
“The Chancellor who prided himself on prudence came to believe that he, uniquely in the history of economics, had ended the trade cycle and abolished boom and bust. So he thought the good days would never end, and borrowed and borrowed and racked up the biggest government deficit in the developed world.”
Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Brown suggested there would be changes, saying developments around the world were raising “fundamental questions” about the relationship between government and markets. “The first financial crisis of the global age has laid bare the weaknesses of unbridled free markets,” he said.Reuse content