UK recovery slows sharply in pre-polls setback
LONDON - Reuters
REUTERS PhotoBritain’s economy slowed sharply in the first three months of 2015, a setback for Prime Minister David Cameron who has staked his campaign for re-election next week on the strength of the recovery.
Gross domestic product grew by 0.3 percent in the January-March period, the slowest quarterly rate since the end of 2012 when there were fears Britain was heading into recession.
Economists said the weakness was likely to be a blip, with the economy still on course for another strong year of growth.
But coming just nine days before what looks like being the closest national election in a generation, the numbers put Cameron’s Conservatives on the back foot.
Finance minister George Osborne said the recovery could not be taken for granted and urged voters to stick with the Conservative Party.
“The future of our economy is on the ballot paper at this election,” he said. “With rising instability abroad, now is the worst possible time to vote for instability at home.”
But the opposition Labour Party seized on the data to challenge the Conservatives’ claim to be trustworthy guardians of the economy.
“While the Tories have spent months patting themselves on the back, these figures show they have not fixed the economy,” Labour’s would-be finance minister Ed Balls said.
Labour has focused on what it calls a cost-of-living crisis. Wages have failed to keep pace with inflation throughout most of Cameron’s five-year premiership. Conservative campaigning has been dominated by references to the success of the government’s “long-term economic plan.”