David Cameron has launched his strongest attack on Gordon Brown's economic record, accusing him of leaving Britain "ill-prepared" to weather the current storms in the global economy.
The Tory leader said last night that, despite 15 years of growth, the British economy was now seen as more vulnerable to a slowdown than its competitors. "Gordon Brown has failed to prepare us if uncertain times lie ahead," he said. "There are three areas of failure: failure of confidence, failure of prudence, and failure of competitiveness."
Mr Cameron told the Cardiff Business Club: "Gordon Brown enjoyed a decade as Chancellor living off the expansion of the global economy. But he failed to prepare Britain for the future."
He sought to puncture Mr Brown's credentials instead of accepting the conventional wisdom that he was a strong Chancellor. The move follows worrying figures on repossessions, tighter credit, falling house prices, a rising cost of living and a sharp fall in consumer confidence. He said good short-term preparation meant appointing a strong Chancellor who could inspire confidence. But Alistair Darling was "increasingly seen as a weak Chancellor whose actions are characterised by dithering", he added.
Mr Cameron said Mr Brown borrowed in a boom, leaving the nation with a budget deficit of 36bn and his fiscal rules totally discredited. Under him, the British education system slid down the international league tables, taxes rose to record levels and infrastructure was left creaking.