Brown sets out new dividing lines

Mr Brown drew up a refined attack against the Tories today
Mr Brown drew up a refined attack against the Tories today

By Ian Dunt

Gordon Brown has marked out a new dividing line with the Conservatives which could signify his hopes for a general election campaign.

The prime minister eschewed talk of cuts - a favourite before parliament began its summer recess - and concentrated instead on the Tories' objections to Labour's action to stem the recession.

"If you look at the position a year ago, we had people predicting that the recession would become a depression, with people thinking their savings would be at risk as banks collapsed," he said.

"Our opponents would not have created the measures that help homeowners and the unemployed.

"This is the testing point for your philosophy, as to whether it is right to help people in a point of need and difficulty, or whether a government should walk away and let the recession take its course."

The comments mark a distinct refinement of his attack on the Conservatives.

As various economies around the world, including Germany, France and Japan, pull out of the recession, Downing Street wants to highlight the Conservative's opposition to the multilateral action taken at the start of the financial crisis - an action many credit Mr Brown with spearheading.

Mr Brown modified his description of 'Labour investment vs Tory cuts' by seeming to admit Labour would have to cut spending in some areas.

"Some departments in the last round of public spending had a settlement that was lower than the previous round," he said.

"So there's no problem about saying you've got to make the right decisions about the priorities for the future."

The prime minister also called for a global crackdown on bonuses, with talk of a "clawback" system under which bonuses based on failed speculative deals would be confiscated.

The suggestion is somewhat short of French calls for a mandatory cap on bankers' bonuses, but plants itself firmly in the multilateral mould Mr Brown has committed himself to since the start of the crisis.

"Remuneration has got to be based on long-term success, not short-term speculative deals," he said.

"There's got to be a clawback system in remuneration itself. if things are not working in year two."

The comments come as chancellor Alistair Darling predicted the end of the recession in an article for the Guardian yesterday.


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