‘Hard Times’ for Cameron as Britain Marks Dickens Bicentenary

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, marking the 200th anniversary of author Charles Dickens’s birth today, was given an austerity-themed gift by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, a copy of the novelist’s classic “Hard Times.”

Hunt, who presented a Dickens book to each member of the Cabinet, also gave Cameron a second novel: “Great Expectations.” Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, wrestling with relations between members of the European single currency and London’s finance industry, received “A Tale Of Two Cities,” set during the French Revolution.

Cameron and Osborne are aiming to rid Britain of a budget deficit equal to 9 percent of gross domestic product by 2017. The 147 billion-pound ($233 billion) austerity program will cost more than 700,000 government jobs. The Dickens anniversary is a major cultural theme this year in Britain and was also marked today by a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey.

Among other Cabinet members, Foreign Secretary William Hague got “The Uncommercial Traveler,” Business Secretary Vince Cable was given “A Christmas Carol,” and George Young, leader of the House of Commons, got “Bleak House.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat junior partners in the coalition, was given “Oliver Twist,” the tale of a boy who asked for more.

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