Clarke: Brown 'must tell it straight'

Ken Clarke, shadow business secretary
Ken Clarke, shadow business secretary

By staff

The prime minister must start to "tell it straight" about public spending or face losing business confidence, Ken Clarke will say in a speech tonight.

The shadow business secretary will denounce Gordon Brown for failing to undertake a spending review and thereby "trying to hide the scale of the crisis".

Spending reviews are generally held once every two years, but despite the last one taking place in 2007, business secretary Peter Mandelson has said the next will not be until after the general election.

"We have never needed a spending review as desperately as we need one today," Mr Clarke will say at the Institution of Civil Engineers.

"Since the last CSR the predicted budget deficit for 2010/11 has grown from 1.7 per cent to 12 per cent of GDP ... And what do we get from the government here? Nothing, except a denial from the prime minister that a problem in public spending levels exists."

He added: "The risk, if we do not have a sensible debate on public spending, is that no action will be taken to get public borrowing onto a credible downward course.

"Interest rates will be driven up and stifle the recovery before it can become established. Not only will the consumer be crowded out but business will be too.

"We need frankness in our political dialogue. Tell it straight. It is going to be very tough."

The debate over spending and Tory cuts has not gone the way the prime minister had hoped of late, with his performance failing to dent David Cameron's lead in the polls.


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