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Daily View: Gordon Brown and the economy

Clare Spencer | 08:39 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Commentators discuss the merits of Gordon Brown's warning that "there are still real risks to the recovery" and whether this makes him the right person to lead the country after the election.

The Guardian editorial says Gordon Brown has often been surprisingly accurate in past economic forecasts, but gives its advice on election strategy:

"[H]is best chance of winning the election is to keep warning that the Tories would rein in spending too soon and too unfairly and hurt the worst-off. That is broadly true, but Labour should lighten the gloom with some proposals for how it will rebuild a shattered manufacturing base and an economy still too dependent on the City."

The Times editorial expresses astonishment at Gordon Brown's speech, which, it says, purposefully tried to scare the public:

"The public finances were in a worse state than they might have been if he had not spent, in the second half of his time as Chancellor, the money he had accrued in the first. Britain fell into a deeper recession, which lasted longer than those of its main competitors. The British economy does now appear to be heading in the right direction, but slowly, and the recovery is still fragile. In these circumstances, it is rather rich of the Prime Minister to claim, as he did in his speech yesterday, that the very fragility of the economic recovery is a reason to vote for him."

Anatole Kaletsky in the Times has mixed feelings on the subject of whether Gordon Brown's financial policies adopted 18 months ago make him the right person to lead Britain in the recovery. He criticises Mr Brown for created a huge deficit, for the reduction in VAT not being enough and for being too slow to act. But he does give Mr Brown some praise:

"With respect to his direct response to the banking crisis, Mr Brown's self-congratulatory comments yesterday were fully justified: October 2008 really was 'a period that provided one of the greatest tests of character'. It really was a time when 'the old conventional wisdom or short-term headlines should not constrain our thinking'. And Mr Brown's willingness to defy short-term headlines and conventional wisdom really did allow him to 'make the tough decisions that were necessary to give us a fighting chance'."

The Telegraph editorial says the Mr Brown's speech lacked a "credible recover policy" and adds that his biggest flaw is not being able to take responsibility for his mistakes on spending:

"Mr Brown is anxious to avoid an election based on his record because it is hard to defend. In particular, he blames global events for Britain's economic woes, when his own failures as Chancellor to keep some of the revenues from the good times to help us through the bad reflect his hubristic belief that boom and bust had been abolished, a claim he is no longer in a position to make."

Adrian Hamilton in the Independent thinks the speech reflected a dilemma faced by the parties when discussing the economy before an election:

"The Prime Minister wants to claim the credit for getting through the worst, but daren't sound too optimistic in case the next set of economic statistics show us falling back again. The opposition feel the equal need to point out just how much worse everything is than the government is admitting but don't, on the other hand, want to put off the voters by sounding too draconian in what they may do in response."

Chris Giles in the Financial Times picks out what he sees as a dodgy claim in the speech that freezing the pay of public sector workers could save £3bn:

"All in all, what appeared to a large saving coming from an attack on the wages of the public sector fat cat few is, in fact, a reannouncement of future pay restraint for the not-so-well-off public sector many, saving nothing extra. I don't think that was easy to deduce from Mr Brown's words."

Links in full

GuardianGuardian | The economy: Bad tidings
TimesTimes | Cut to the chase
TimesAnatole Kaletsky | Times | If interest rates rise, our prospects plummet
TelegraphTelegraph | The question voters will need to answer
IndependentAdrian Hamilton | Independent | The Janus face of recession politics
Financial TimesChris Giles | Financial Times | UK election 2010: Dodgy claims 2 (Labour)

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