“The only way out of this crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills,” the Prime Minister had planned to say, according to extracts given to journalists ahead of the speech.
The extracts prompted an outcry from retailers, who said the remarks could depress consumer spending, already in the doldrums, in the run-up to the all-important Christmas shopping period.
Cameron’s speechwriters responded by altering the final speech so the Prime Minister merely observed that households were already repaying credit, rather than telling them to do so. An aide said that Cameron had never intended to “lecture” people in his speech.
The British Retail Consortium’s Richard Dodd said: “Consumers have reined in their spending already, with 32 per cent telling our surveys that they have no spare cash.
“Low spending is an indicator of how tough conditions are, and a contributor to the economy’s weakness,” he added
The row overshadowed the rest of Cameron’s big speech, which was supposed to instil a sense of “can-do” confidence while still being realistic about the scale of the economic challenge facing the UK.
Cameron said that the 2008-9 slump was “no normal recession” and that growth had not returned as quickly as people had hoped. But he called on the electorate to “reject pessimism” in favour of an “effort and appetite” that could “turn this ship around”.
“The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills.”
“The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That’s why households are paying down their credit card and store card bills.”