LONDON (AP) — Britain must stick to its tough austerity measures despite doubts elsewhere in Europe if that’s the best remedy for the continent’s stalled economies, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Tuesday.
Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg were making a rare joint appearance in Essex, southern England, to gather support for their coalition government amid growing unease over Britain’s economic path.
Both Cameron’s Conservative Party and Clegg’s Liberal Democrats suffered heavy losses in local elections last week, as voters punished them over painful spending cuts that have seen welfare payments trimmed and public sector jobs axed.
In excerpts of his speech released in advance, Cameron said he and Clegg had come together after the country’s indecisive 2010 election with a vow to repair Britain’s ravaged economy.
“That was and remains our guiding task and in these perilous times it’s more important than ever for Britain that we stick to it,” Cameron planned to say, according to the text.
Last month, Britain’s economy slumped back into recession for the first time since 2009 amid stalled growth.
Treasury Chief George Osborne has announced 23 billion pounds ($37 billion) of additional spending cuts through 2016, extending a planned four-year program of 81 billion pounds ($130 billion) of budget trimming.
Opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who won major gains in Thursday’s local election, said voters struggling to balance family budgets were dismayed at the government’s plans, including a decision to lower taxes for high earners.
“They promised fairness, they promised that we were all in it together,” Miliband said. “Things have got worse, not better, because they are standing up for the wrong people.”
Critics of Britain’s harsh spending cuts note the success in France’s presidential election of Socialist Francois Hollande, who has vowed to buck Europe’s austerity trend.
However, Cameron said the impact of the debt crisis in the eurozone, high oil prices and an economy laden with debt meant his administration could not risk more borrowing.
“There can be no going back on our carefully judged strategy for restoring the public finances,” Cameron planned to say.
Clegg said the global economic crisis had been “like a giant heart attack,” but acknowledged that the recovery was proving to be painful.
“Ducking the tough choices would only prolong the pain, condemning the next generation to decades of higher interest rates, poorer public services and fewer jobs,” Clegg planned to say, according to a text of his speech.
On Wednesday, Cameron’s government will set out its annual legislative program in a speech by Queen Elizabeth II, as she opens a new session of Parliament in a traditionally opulent ceremony.
Grass-roots members of Cameron’s party have urged him to focus on boosting economic growth and to sideline plans to introduce same-sex marriage – an extension of civil partnership rights for gay couples – and to reform Britain’s unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords.