Monday 19 February 2018

Battling Brown in bid to put 'bigot row' to bed in TV clash

Gavin Cordon

Gordon Brown fought for his political life in the third election debate last night after the "bigot slur gaffe" threatened to torpedo his party's chances.

In his opening statement in the debate a clearly stressed looking Mr Brown told voters that "there's a lot to this job, and as you saw yesterday, I don't get all of it right. But I do know how to run the economy in the good times and in the bad."

The premier also insisted that he had taken the right decisions through the credit crunch.

"As a result of that Britain is now on the road to recovery," he said. "Shrink the economy now as the Conservatives want to do, and they risk your job, your living standards, and your tax credits."

However, kicking off the proceedings Tory chief David Cameron said UK plc was "stuck in a rut and we need change to get it moving".

"Let me tell you what I would do," he said. "First we have to reward work and tackle welfare dependency.

"Second, we have to fix our banks, tax them to get our money back, regulate them properly and get them lending again.

"Third, we have to start making things again in this country, it's no policy to just borrow from the Chinese and buy goods made in China.

"Fourth, we've actually got to get value for money in our public services."

The Conservative leader said he could "guarantee" his government would never join the euro.


Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg meanwhile reiterated his belief that the country needed to "do things differently".

"The way they got us into this mess is not the way out," he said. "So we need to be frank about where cuts are needed - so that we can protect things like schools and hospitals. We need to break up our banking system so that irresponsible bankers can never again put your businesses and your savings at risk.

"We have to rediscover our passion for innovation, for building things, not just placing bets on the money markets.

"We need fairer taxes, so that you don't pay any income tax on your first £10,000."

The topic of the the debate last night was how to kick-start Britain's sluggish economy.

Before the third and final leaders' debate Mr Brown insisted that he wanted to concentrate on the economy.

"Yesterday is yesterday. Today I want to talk about the future of the economy," he declared as he addressed workers at a factory in Halesowen in the West Midlands.

Anxious senior Labour ministers openly accepted the fall-out from his encounter yesterday with 66-year-old Gillian Duffy -- who he branded a "bigoted woman" -- had been damaging for them as they entered the final days of the campaign.But even on the issue he regards as his strong suit there was trouble, with claims that Bank of England Governor Mervyn King had warned privately about the massive scale of the cuts that would be needed after the election.

US economist David Hale told Australian TV that Mr King had confided that "whoever wins this election will be out of power for a whole generation because of how tough the fiscal austerity will have to be".

There was no comment from the Bank on his reported remarks, although it is understood that the two men met in London in early March rather than last week, as Mr Hale suggested in his interview.

But during his visit Mr Brown could not escape the issue of immigration, with one worker at the Thompson Friction Welding plant demanding to know what he was going to do about it during a question-and-answer session with staff.

Mr Brown insisted he understood the sense of public concern, pointing to the Government's introduction of an Australian-style points system for workers coming from outside the EU. "I understand the worries people have about immigration. I understand the concerns about what is happening to people's neighbourhoods and I understand the fears that people have," he said.

Afterwards he acknowledged he should not have described Mrs Duffy as "bigoted" after she raised the issue of immigrants coming to Britain.

"I think that I have apologised and I have said that it was the wrong word to use. I am concerned about immigration and I am concerned about controlling immigration," he said.

However, he did not believe the issue would affect the outcome of the general election, now just a week away.

"Really when it comes down to it, this election will be about the economy and about public services," he said.

Irish Independent

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