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PM Brown sets optimistic forecast for Britain

Published on 12/10/2009

London - Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the British economy would emerge from recession with stronger growth than expected as he drew the battle lines for the general election.

Brown told The Daily Telegraph newspaper that Britain would return to growth next year, as he spelt out the differences between his governing Labour Party and the main opposition Conservatives, who are 14 percent ahead in the opinion polls with an election due by June.

Brown tried to portray himself as an optimist on the coming years in Britain, saying the Conservatives had painted a pessimistic view of tough times ahead that were "simply not true".

"Britain is capable of coming back to growth at a higher rate next year than people were expecting, and higher rates in the future," the 58-year-old said.

"We’ve said that the economy will grow by one-and-a-half per cent next year and more people are moving towards our position as a result of what they’ve seen in the economy over the last few months."

The Conservatives "are pessimists; they’re for an age of austerity", he said.

"The choice is between people like me who are optimists for the future of this country and those who think the prospects of this generation are worse than the last."

He said the centre-right Conservatives had wanted a "small election" about "who had the best slogans and sound bites. It’s now a big election".

The Scot added: "Do people want a party that has a strategy for getting out of the recession, or do they want a party that’s so pessimistic about Britain, they tell you in advance they’re going to give you an age of austerity?"

He said he would "of course" welcome support from his predecessor Tony Blair in the election campaign, reiterating that he would back the former premier should he try to become the first European Union president.

Britain has 9,150 troops in Afghanistan fighting Taliban insurgents and the rising British death toll has put the mission there and the resources available to troops in the spotlight.

The Daily Telegraph said Brown was expected to announce some extra troops next week, while the prime minister hinted at an even larger increase, saying he was "prepared to do more" to train Afghan forces.

Meanwhile on the scandal over lawmakers’ expenses, which has seen many members of parliament (MPs) pledge to step down, he predicted some cases going before a judge.

"It’s right to distinguish between what you might call corruption in some cases, which is for the courts to decide, and honest mistakes.

"Some cases will end up in the courts. Where somebody’s done something very wrong, we’ve got a duty to deal with them most severely."