News / Europe

British PM: Rough Economic Times Ahead

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the country's economic recovery remains fragile and requires a steady hand to guide it through rough times ahead.

It was billed as an important economic address and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quick to point out that his government has been on the right track to pull the country out of recession.

But, he warned of rough times ahead.

"Although the economy is growing, the recovery is still in its early stages and remains very fragile.  There will be many months ahead of conflicting statistics, false hopes and mixed signals," said Brown.

The cornerstone of Mr. Brown's policy has been to provide substantial economic stimulus.  Recent economic figures indicate Britain is emerging from the recession.  But critics say the price is a massive public debt.  

Speaking before business leaders in London, Mr. Brown outlined plans to cut the deficit in half during the next four years.  He promised details when the government's budget is formally released in two weeks.

But this was largely a political speech.  General elections are expected in early May and, until recently, Mr. Brown and his Labor Party trailed the opposition Conservatives in opinion polls.   But the gap is narrowing and Labor is back in the running.

That is what Mr. Brown is capitalizing on, says political analyst Patrick Dunleavy of the London School of Economics.

"I think it [the speech] was designed to help along a movement in the opinion polls, which has been that people are warming up in their view of the government," he said.

With political jockeying in full swing, candidates know the economy weighs heavily on the minds of voters.

Labor accuses the Conservatives of favoring the wealthy and big business while the Conservatives accuse Labor of hindering investment and running up the deficit that will burden future generations.

But the worrying economic times are helping Labor, says Dunleavy.

"The electorate is very cautious, the electorate is worried about the recession continuing and there is a well proven tendency ...  for people to hang on to a government they know in a recession," said Dunleavy.

Mr. Brown is wasting no time painting his Conservative Party opponent David Cameron as inexperienced and glib.  It is about character, said Mr. Brown.

"I believe character is not about telling people what they want to hear, but about telling them what they need to know.  ... For better or for worse, with me what you see is what you get," said the prime minister.

And with the campaign heating up there will likely be much more of this.

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