PMQs: Leaders clash on economic competence

Today's prime minister's questions saw Gordon Brown clash with David Cameron over his economic competence.

The Conservatives are now aggressively pushing the line that Gordon Brown left Britain ill-prepared to weather an economic downturn during his ten years at the Treasury.

The prime minister in turn argues Britain is better placed than many developed economies to survive the global turbulence, pointing to comparatively low inflation and interest rates.

But with economic downturn indisputable, ministers have located the cause of this firmly in the global economy, passing the blame to the collapse of the US subprime market.

Mr Cameron today attempted to offset Mr Brown's favourable global comparisons, challenging the prime minister to name another developed country that raised taxes in its last Budget.

The prime minister was unable to do so but accused Mr Cameron of lacking a "basic grasp of arithmetic" by ignoring the 2p tax cut from last year's Budget which takes effect next month.

Mr Cameron retorted with his own version of arithmetic: "One prime minister plus one chancellor equals economic incompetence."

The Tories maintain the Budget did raise taxes for ordinary people, exposing Mr Brown to the standard charge of stealth taxes.

With Mr Brown refusing to name another country that has raised taxes, Mr Cameron deployed his stock PMQs line that Mr Brown is unable to answer a question.

The Conservative leader also highlighted Mr Brown's other supposed weakness - his "dithering" and tendency for U-turns.

After the critical report into the Financial Services Authority's regulation of Northern Rock, Mr Cameron challenged the prime minister and chancellor to perform another U-turn and return responsibility for regulation to the Bank of England.

Mr Brown in turn attacked the Conservatives' supposed weak point - their handling of the economy during the early 1990s.

In doing so he retrospectively promoted his Tory rival, painting Mr Cameron as a high-profile economic adviser to the Treasury during Black Wednesday.

Economic instability also underscored Mr Brown's clash with the Liberal Democrat leader.

Pointing to rising repossessions, Nick Clegg said the crisis facing homeowners now looks as bad as under the Conservative recession - for once taking advantage of his third-party status to deny any culpability in the economy of the late 20th century.

The prime minister denied claims the government is not taking its responsibilities to homeowners seriously, pointing to the rising number of homeowners under Labour and safely avoiding the issue of spiralling house prices.


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