Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. economy is “healing,” defending his strategy for government amid opposition accusations that policy changes and a delayed Cabinet resignation amount to a “shambles.”
“You can see the economy is healing,” Cameron told ITV’s “The Agenda” program yesterday. “We’re trying to bring down energy bills. We’re on the side of people who want to work hard, get on and who are struggling to pay the bills. They just want to know it’s going to be OK in the end, and it is.”
Cameron is seeking to regain the initiative after last week saw the resignation of Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell for swearing at police, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s attempt to travel in a first-class train carriage on a standard-class ticket, and the premier’s own surprise announcement of a policy on energy prices, which he then had to move away from the next day after ministers couldn’t explain it.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband yesterday repeated his accusation that Cameron’s government is a “shambles” during a parliamentary debate about the European Union summit last week.
“At home last week, he was starring in his own version of ‘The Thick of It’,” Miliband told lawmakers, in a reference to a BBC comedy about hapless ministers. “In Europe he was offering another chapter in his handbook of ‘How to Lose Friends and Influence’.”
Mitchell, who apologized for swearing at police officers guarding Cameron’s Downing Street residence in an incident more than a month ago, lost the support of lawmakers in his own Conservative Party which meant his job as party disciplinarian was undermined.
“The truth is as chief whip you have to command the parliamentary party and it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to do his job so he had to go,” Cameron said yesterday. “Sometimes these things are frustrating. What has been happening this week has been slightly more encouraging on that front. That’s politics. You have to deal with short term problems and try to focus on the big, long-term stuff.”
On Oct. 19 Britain posted its smallest September budget deficit since 2008, providing a boost for Cameron and Osborne, struggling to meet borrowing targets.
Britain’s public finances have been hit by a double-dip recession that has depressed tax revenue and pushed up spending on welfare. The figures from Oct. 19 showed borrowing between April and August was revised down by 6.7 billion pounds, meaning Osborne may overshoot his full-year forecast by less than previously thought.
Asked to predict the health of the economy, Cameron replied, “You’re not going to get a ‘green shoot’ out of me,” referring to former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont who was criticized for using the phrase during the recession of the early 1990s.
“What you will get is, it’s healing,” Cameron said.