Cameron Starts Election Year With ‘Stronger Economy’ Poster

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the first image from his Conservative Party’s campaign for May’s general election with a poster calling on voters to “stay on the road to a stronger economy.”

The billboard, showing a road stretching through green fields under a blue sky dotted with only an occasional cloud, aims to highlight achievements by the Conservative-led coalition since it came to power in 2010, listing “1.75 million more people in work, 760,000 more businesses, the deficit halved.”

The Tories lag two to three percentage points behind the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls and have lost supporters and lawmakers to the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party. Cameron and his chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, are bidding to win back voters with the argument that they’re more competent to run the economy than Labour leader Ed Miliband and his finance spokesman, Ed Balls, both members of the government in power until 2010.

“Our country has been on a journey these last five years,” Cameron said as he presented the poster in the swing district of Halifax, northern England. “It has been a journey from a position where we were on the brink of bankruptcy to being one of the strongest and fastest-growing economies anywhere in the western world, a journey from having a nightmare deficit to seeing that deficit cut in half as a share of GDP.”

Economy Grows

The U.K. economy recorded a seventh straight quarter of growth in the three months through September as household spending rose the most in more than four years.

Still, in his Autumn Statement to Parliament Dec. 3, Osborne conceded government borrowing would be more than forecast, even as he appealed to voters with a revamp of the tax on buying houses and higher levies on multinational companies and banks.

Under projections published by the Office for Budget Responsibility alongside the Autumn Statement, the U.K.’s cyclically adjusted budget is projected to return to surplus in 2017-18. In his first budget in 2010, Osborne said he intended to eliminate the structural deficit by this year.

In an article in the Guardian newspaper today, Balls argued that Osborne’s “original strategy -– to balance the books by this year and go into the election having delivered tax cuts –- lies in tatters” and that “there is nothing competent about borrowing over 200 billion pounds ($300 billion) more than planned because of your failure to deliver a recovery that is felt by all working people and not just a few at the top.”

Halifax, the town in Yorkshire Cameron visited today, is a Labour-held district that the Conservatives are targeting in May. The Tories won 306 seats in the 2010 election and need to win 20 more this time to allow them to form a single-party government. Halifax is the 18th most winnable constituency in terms of the shift needed in share of the vote.

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