Cameron Attacks Labour on Economy as U.K. Election LoomsSvenja O’Donnell and Benjamin Katz
Prime Minister David Cameron put the economy and cutting the deficit at the heart of his Conservative Party’s campaign for May’s general election, warning that a vote for the opposition Labour Party would cause “economic chaos.”
Standards of health care and other public services can only be maintained if the books are balanced, the premier said in a speech today in Nottingham, central England.
“Nothing we want to achieve will be possible unless we eliminate our deficit and deal with our debt,” Cameron, who was standing in front of a slogan reading “Britain: Living within its means,” told his audience. “If we fail to meet this challenge, the writing is on the wall.”
With neither of the two main parties set to win a majority, Cameron is seeking to convince voters his Conservatives are best placed to shepherd Britain’s recovery. Cameron’s reference to “chaos” repeats an attack line used by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne last week.
Labour “want to run a deficit forever,” Cameron said. “They want to add to our debt forever. They never want to put money aside for a rainy day.”
In an appearance coinciding with the prime minister’s speech, Labour leader Ed Miliband said Cameron’s government has failed to meet its targets on the deficit, meaning spending on the National Health Service and other public services is under threat.
“David Cameron and George Osborne have failed on living standards, and they’ve failed on the deficit,” Miliband said as he answered questions from the public in Stevenage, north of London. “No wonder the NHS has gone from being the three most important letters to David Cameron to today becoming a subject for him dare not speak its name.”
Cameron’s plans would see public spending as a proportion of gross domestic product fall to levels last seen in the 1930s, Miliband said.
“We’ve had five years of David Cameron’s failing,” he said. “Working people cannot afford more of the same.”
Cameron defended his plans, saying they would see spending at the same level as when Labour’s Tony Blair was Prime Minister.
Next year “day to day spending on public services will be the same in real terms, adjusted for inflation, as it was in 2002 and for the first time as a country we will be paying down our debt instead of increasing it,” Cameron said. “With us in 2018 our government will be taking in more than it is spending for the first time in 18 years,” allowing it to start paying down debt, he said.
The leaders were speaking as the focus of election campaigning shifted to Parliament, with the Conservatives and Labour preparing for votes on key campaign policies from the budget deficit to living standards.
Osborne told the Sunday Times that he wants the House of Commons to back a “charter of budget responsibility” tomorrow, which would commit government to erasing the structural deficit within three years. Miliband pledged to call a vote to speed legislation granting the energy regulator power to order cuts in household bills.
Parliament will be dissolved on March 30 and using Westminster as a forum to spar before the May 7 vote will allow the leaders to emphasize their parties’ messages while muffling smaller rivals with few lawmakers, such as the U.K. Independence Party, which is drawing support from both Tories and Labour.
A YouGov Plc poll in the Sunday Times tied Labour and the Conservatives at 32 percent support each. UKIP had 18 percent, the Liberal Democrats 7 percent and the Green Party 6 percent.