Greek jibes anger Mandelson

BUSINESS secretary Lord Mandelson yesterday dismissed Tory claims that the UK was facing a Greek-style sovereign debt crisis and accused the Conservative opposition of being “unpatriotic”.
Mandelson’s comments came as Conservative leader David Cameron softened his stance on fiscal tightening, saying that he did not plan “swingeing cuts” immediately after the election.

Cameron said that he would still try to cut the UK’s yawning £178bn budget deficit if he becomes Prime Minister, but adopted a less hawkish tone after a raft of opinion polls showing the Tory lead narrowing.

“We’re talking about making a start in reducing our deficit,” he said.

The Tories dismissed suggestions that Cameron was at odds with his shadow chancellor George Osborne on the issue.

Earlier this month, Osborne told an audience at the London School of Economics that a Tory government would start the “heavy lifting” of spending cuts as soon as possible.

He said: “Fiscal consolidation in countries with weak public finances needs to begin as soon as possible… the longer one waits with the heavy lifting, the more difficult it becomes.”

But yesterday he appeared to back Cameron’s softer stance, saying the Tories would take only “limited” action to cut the deficit at first.

He added: “Britain, with the largest debts, the largest borrowing of any major economy in the world, has to deal with this problem. If we don’t, we risk a Greek-style budget crisis.”

But Mandelson dismissed those comments as “unpatriotic’’ and accused the Tory leadership of talking Britain’s economic prospects down to business leaders at Davos.