Watch your words, Tories told

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Careless talk costs votes, David Cameron told his Shadow Cabinet as he tried to head off Labour claims that his party is uncaring by telling frontbenchers to stop making insensitive remarks about the recession.

Such comments by senior Tories had allowed Labour to distort the Tories' economic policies, he said.

Mr Cameron, who has worked to bury the Tories' harsh image, wants to distance his party from the hardline remarks made during the recession of the early 1990s, when the then chancellor, Norman Lamont, said unemployment was "a price worth paying" for low inflation and the prime minister, John Major, said: "If it's not hurting, it's not working".

One frontbencher said: "David told us to choose our language about the recession carefully, that Labour will seize on anything. Our policies are not uncaring, but we must not give Labour any ammunition."

Labour has exploited a string of Tory gaffes, accusing the party of wanting to "let the recession take its course", a phrase used by John Maples, a Tory deputy chairman, who later apologised.

The Archbishop of Canterbury joined the Tories' criticism of Mr Brown's economic measures yesterday, saying a greed-filled consumer boom had caused the crisis while cutting the VAT risked repeating past mistakes. "It seems a little bit like the addict returning to the drug," Dr Rowan Williams said. People should not "spend to save the economy", but spend on things that provided for their needs.

Mr Brown said he supported the Archbishop's comments about "a strong civil society, the need for responsibility and the need to act against irresponsible behaviour when it appears in the banking and financial systems" as it had done of late, but the Government would not "walk by on the other side" while people lost their jobs.