DAVID Cameron launched a scathing attack on his Labour predecessors yesterday, accusing them of leaving the country in an “appalling mess” after thirteen years in power.
In a sign that the Liberal-Conservative coalition intends to pin the blame for swingeing cuts on the former government, the Prime Minister used his inaugural Commons speech to round on his opponents.
His angry comments followed acting Labour leader Harriet Harman’s response to the Queen’s Speech.
Cameron hit out at the interim leader of the opposition for refusing to acknowledge the scale of the fiscal challenge facing the new government.
“Not one word of apology for the appalling mess that has been left in this country,” he said.
“Nothing to say about leaving Britain with a deficit larger than Greece’s – not a single idea for getting to grips with it.”
The Prime Minister said that as long as Labour refused to admit “what they got so badly wrong” then voters would see the party as an irrelevance.
Cameron defined the government’s agenda in relation to Labour’s failures, in a tacit acknowledgement that Britain’s empty coffers mean this coalition will spend much of its time reversing the excesses of the last thirteen years instead of enacting its own reforms.
He said: “The values at [this government’s] heart are freedom – because over the past decade the state has become over-mighty. Fairness, because after a Labour government inequality is wider. And responsibility, because under Labour the age of irresponsibility broke our society and left our economy deep in debt.”
Meanwhile, Harriet Harman questioned whether the coalition would last long enough to enact its legislative agenda in the face of growing dissent on the Tory and Lib-Dem benches.
And she hit out at the Liberal Democrats for applying to receive “short money” that is set aside to fund parties in opposition.
“I’ve heard of parties clinging to the trappings of power,” she quipped. “But this is the first time I’ve seen them clinging to the trappings of opposition.”
KEY BILLS | AT A GLANCE
• Office for Budget Responsibility Bill
Paves way for a statutory body that will provide growth and borrowing forecasts to stop chancellors “fiddling the figures”.
• National Insurance Bill
Rushes through changes that will reverse most of the rise in employers’ National Insurance contributions.
• Financial reform bill
Dismantles tripartite system. Strips FSA of most of its powers, although watchdog will survive in some form.
• Pensions and Savings Bill
Restores link between earnings and state pension by 2012. Likely to pave way for increase in retirement age to 66.
• Welfare Reform Bill
A major shake-up of benefits system with greater incentives to return to work and tougher penalties for the work-shy.
• Postal Services Bill
A late addition to the Queen’s Speech, which will give the go-ahead to a part-privatisation of the Royal Mail. Post Office Ltd will remain in public ownership.
• Academies Bill
Enables schools to operate independently, free from local authority control.
• Education and Children Bill
Ushers in “free” schools run by private and voluntary sectors or parents.
• Police Reform Bill
Will create directly-elected individuals to hold police forces to account and establish a border police to tackle illegal immigration.
• Public Bodies Reform Bill
Paves way for a “bonfire of the quangos”, allowing ministers to abolish, merge or shrink Britain’s 766 public bodies.
• Parliamentary Reform Bill
Nick Clegg’s pet project. Will bring in five-year fixed-term parliaments; reduce size of Commons; change constituency boundaries; allow voters to recall misbehaving MPs; and pave way for referendum on voting reform.
• Freedom Bill
Reverses Labour’s encroachment on civil liberties, reducing CCTV usage and scaling back DNA database.