David Young, a Conservative lawmaker who was advising U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron on the government’s relationship with small businesses, resigned over “inaccurate and offensive” comments he made about the economy.
Young, who had a desk in the prime minister’s London office, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper in an interview published today that the “so-called recession” left most Britons better off as a result of low interest rates and that in the future “people will wonder what all the fuss was about.”
“He was very quick to retract completely what he said. It was unacceptable,” Cameron told reporters in Cornwall, southwest England. “He is not a member of the government, he does not speak for the government and I think he’ll be doing a bit less speaking in the future.” Cameron’s spokesman, Steve Field, later confirmed television reports that Young had quit.
Young told the Telegraph in a tape-recorded interview over lunch in a Westminster restaurant that in a 30-million-strong labor market, the loss of 100,000 public-sector jobs a year foreseen in the government’s spending cuts is “within the margin of error.” He echoed a 1957 comment by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan on the state of Britain’s economy, saying “for the vast majority of people in the country today, they have never had it so good.”
Field told reporters in a regular briefing this morning that the comments were “inaccurate and offensive” and declined to say whether the prime minister had confidence in his adviser. Young’s resignation was announced two hours later.
‘Right to Resign’
“In view of the reaction to the reporting of the interview I gave earlier this week I feel that it would be right to resign forthwith from my position as your adviser,” Young said in a letter to Cameron, e-mailed by his office. “You should know that you will continue to have my support in every way.”
The main opposition Labour Party had called on Cameron to dismiss Young, a member of the upper House of Lords, saying that he was out of touch with ordinary people’s experience of the recession.
“It is shameful that the government’s own appointed ambassador to small business could express such crass, insensitive and ignorant remarks at a time when small businesses up and down the country are suffering and the government fails to get bank lending going,” said Labour business spokesman John Denham. “David Cameron’s point-blank refusal to fire him shows how out of touch his government is.”
A close adviser of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Young was on the management board of the Centre for Policy Studies, a research group founded by Thatcher, and served in her government as secretary of state for employment between 1985 and 1987 and for trade and industry between 1987 and 1989.
“In this sort of environment people have to be very careful about the words they choose, people are going through a great deal of hardship at the moment,” Defense Secretary Liam Fox told Sky News television. “I’m sorry he said what he said and sorry he’s gone, because I’m a great admirer of his.”