Prime Minister Gordon Brown (pictured) and opposition leader David Cameron attacked each other's plan for the economy and defence Wednesday, in a clear indicator of the themes that are set to dominate the campaign ahead of the May 6th election.
REUTERS - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and opposition leader David Cameron clashed in parliament on Wednesday over the economy and defence in a taste of the arguments set to dominate the campaign for the May 6 election.
A day after Brown set the election date, Conservative leader Cameron accused Brown of wrecking the economic recovery with plans to raise payroll taxes and of failing to give British troops in Afghanistan enough helicopters.
Amid noisy shouts from MPs, Brown in turn said the Conservatives would put growth and jobs at risk with their plans for public spending cuts to pay down the gaping budget deficit.
The economy and nurturing the fledging recovery are set to dominate the election, in which the Conservatives are bidding to end 13 years of rule by Brown’s Labour Party.
“This prime minister would wreck the recovery by putting a tax on every job, on everyone earning over 20,000 (pounds or $30,470 a year), a tax on aspiration, a tax on every business in the country—this government would wreck the recovery,” Cameron said, referring to Brown’s plans to raise payroll taxes.
Brown retorted that to withdraw six billion pounds from the economy, as he says the centre-right Conservatives plan to do, would put jobs, businesses and growth at risk.
“We cannot cut our way to recovery but we could cut our way to double-dip recession,” he said.
CHANCE OF HUNG PARLIAMENT
While the Conservatives lead in the polls, many surveys suggest they will fall short of a parliamentary majority, resulting in a “hung parliament” that financial markets fear will lack the will to slash a budget deficit forecast at 163 billion pounds, 11 percent of Gross Domestic Product, this year.
Brown’s last parliamentary question-and-answer session before the election gave the main party leaders the chance to rehearse lines they will use in three pre-election televised debates—a first for British politics.
Nick Clegg, leader of the smaller opposition Liberal
Democrats, who could play a “kingmaker” role in forming the next government if there is a hung parliament, attacked Labour.
“We all remember back in 1997 the hope and the promise of this new government. Look at them now, you’ve failed. It’s over. It’s time to go,” he said to loud cheers from opposition MPs.
The Conservatives want to go faster and deeper than Labour in cutting spending to rein in the budget deficit.
The Conservatives switched focus last week by saying they would exempt most Britons from the planned payroll tax rise, funding the measure through efficiency savings worth an initial 6 billion pounds.
Bosses of some of Britain’s biggest companies backed the Conservatives over the payroll tax but Brown told GMTV on Wednesday the executives had been “deceived”.
Cameron repeatedly accused Brown of failing to give Britain’s 9,500 troops in Afghanistan enough helicopters when they were sent to combat Taliban insurgents in the southern province of Helmand.
Brown denied the charge, saying: “We have done our best to equip our troops and we will continue to do so.”
Date created : 2010-04-07