WITH the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States now only sixteen days away we are approaching what will almost certainly be a new era in world affairs. Against that background it has been interesting to look at the New Year messages of Britain's political leaders. On the overriding issue of recovery from the global recession the Labour government and Conservative opposition offer starkly different solutions. With Tony Blair's “Big Tent” approach it was often thought that the diference between the two parties was more of personality than policy. The credit crunch has removed that assumption. There is now almost no meeting point on economic issues between Gordon Brown and David Cameron. In his New Year message the prime minister reiterated his belief in fiscal stimulus and warned that “the risk of attempting too little is greater than the risk of attempting too much”. Mr Cameron spoke of Labour's “irresponsible borrowing” that will bring Britain to “the brink of bankruptcy” and warned against extra public spending or tax cuts in the short term - a policy that certainly seems to justify Mr Brown's accusation that the Conservatives are the “do-nothing party”.

All that can be said at the moment is that internationally more economists and political leaders agree with Gordon Brown than with David Cameron. As that wise old bird Lord Rees Mogg succinctly put it in The Times this week, after analysing the lessons of the 1931 depression, “Better too much too soon than too little too late”.


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