Miliband urges action on jobs


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Millions of UK jobs are at risk because ministers are "sitting on their hands" and wrongly blaming the eurozone crisis for Britain's economic woes, Ed Miliband said today.

The Labour leader said that while there is a "pressing need" to resolve the major problems engulfing the single currency, far more domestic action was required to stop Britain sliding back into recession.

Volatile markets rallied yesterday as two of the most troubled European countries, Italy and Greece, took steps towards stabilising their politics and putting in place tough austerity measures.

In Athens, new prime minister Lucas Papademos took control of an interim coalition government after days of intense wrangling following the departure of George Papandreou.

Meanwhile politicians in Italy are expected to give final approval to a series of reforms today, which should be the trigger for the resignation of premier Silvio Berlusconi.

With technocratic administrations being put in place to calm fears in those countries, focus was shifting to Germany which has been the block to the intervention of the European Central Bank in propping up ailing economies.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor George Osborne and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg all issued stark warnings yesterday of the potential fallout of the eurozone troubles on domestic fortunes.

Mr Cameron said there was "a big question mark" over the future of the single currency and he could not rule out a "double-dip" recession in the UK as a result.

He said he was doing everything possible to steer Britain "safely through the storm" but that the country faced "a difficult time because of what is happening in the eurozone".

But Mr Miliband used a speech today to accuse the Government of using Europe as a smokescreen for failing to take action to promote jobs and growth in the UK.

Speaking at a party conference in the West Midlands, he said: "It is time David Cameron and George Osborne started taking responsibility for what is happening in the British economy.

"There is an urgent and pressing need for the crisis in the eurozone to be resolved. But when people's jobs, homes and businesses are in jeopardy it is not enough for the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to use the eurozone crisis as a cloak to hide their lack of action.

"They made a fundamental mistake in choking off our economy a year ago by cutting spending and raising taxes too far and too fast.

"They have done nothing as the economy flatlined. Now they are making a second fundamental mistake by blaming the eurozone crisis for our economic emergency and using that as an excuse for doing nothing.

"Our growth stalled and problems started before the eurozone crisis escalated. But David Cameron and George Osborne are still sitting on their hands at home refusing to admit they are wrong."

Promoting Labour's "five-point plan" including tax breaks for small business, a temporary VAT cut and a bank bonus tax to fund 100,000 jobs for young people, Mr Miliband said Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne had made a total mess of the UK's economy.

During a 20-minute speech to the Labour conference at the University of Warwick in Coventry, Mr Miliband added: "Anybody watching the television in the last few days who has seen what's happening in the eurozone will know that there's an urgent need for international leadership.

"Our Prime Minister is not showing that leadership - he is showing an abdication of leadership - all he wants to do is stand on the sidelines.

"For the last 18 months he felt he had a great excuse for the problems the British economy was facing - he decided to blame the last Labour government.

"Now he has found a new excuse - to blame the eurozone crisis."

Mr Miliband, whose speech received a standing ovation, went on: "A year ago we were saying to the government: 'It is a reckless gamble to cut as far and as fast as you are'.

"We warned them - we said it was a reckless gamble with people's jobs and livelihoods and they ignored us.

"The government now has a choice - they can repeat the catastrophic error that they made a year-and-a-half ago to cut too far and too fast or they can change course." PA