Labour urges Cameron to push for European growth

British opposition leader Ed Miliband on Sunday urged Prime Minister David Cameron to show leadership over the international economic crisis and work with other European countries to push for growth.

“Let’s get stuck in, let’s engage, let’s get Europe to grow, that’s the priority,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

Miliband, whose centre-left Labour Party begins its annual conference in Liverpool on Sunday, said rising unemployment showed Cameron’s deficit-cutting strategy was not working and action was needed to get the economy growing.

Miliband — elected a year ago to lead Labour after its election defeat ended 13 years in power — said he had called a month ago for Cameron to push for a meeting of G20 leading economic powers to get the world economy moving.

“Nothing has happened … There is an absence of leadership and I say to the prime minister ‘Put the politics to one side, start showing some leadership’,” he said.

The priority in Europe was growth but Cameron was standing aside and trying to avoid getting lumbered with the euro zone’s problems, Miliband said.

Financial markets plunged last week on fears that Greece’s near-bankruptcy could spread to other euro zone countries, heaping pressure on European policymakers to prevent a repeat of the chaos that swept the world in 2007-2009.

Britain, a member of the 27-nation European Union (EU) but not of the euro zone, has largely left it to the euro zone to tackle the crisis.

Its coalition government has launched a tough austerity programme to eliminate the country’s budget deficit by 2015 from a record 10 percent of GDP before it came to power in May 2010.

Record public sector job losses have pushed up the rise in Britain’s unemployment rate to its fastest pace in two years. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) measure, Britain’s jobless rate in the quarter to July was 7.9%, with 2.51 million people out of work.

Collective solution
“We need to change the balance in the world so that there is growth,” Miliband said. “At the moment, the problem is each country is just looking at its own problems … It’s a collective problem and it’s got to have a collective solution.”

Labour and the coalition clash over how fast to cut Britain’s swollen budget deficit.

The coalition aims to virtually eradicate the deficit in five years. But rising unemployment and weakening growth have heaped pressure on finance minister George Osborne to consider a “Plan B”, something he has consistently ruled out, fearing it could destroy his credibility with the markets.

Labour would seek to halve the deficit over four years, saying faster cuts risk snuffing out growth.

The coalition blames Labour over-spending for the deficit and polls show Miliband faces a difficult task rebuilding Labour’s credibility for economic management with voters.

In a separate interview with The Observer newspaper, Miliband said Labour would cut the maximum tuition fee for university students by a third to 6,000 pounds ($9,300) a year.

Labour would pay for this by reversing planned tax cuts for the banks and by asking the highest-earning graduates to pay more interest on their loans. The coalition has almost tripled university tuition fees starting from next year.

Treasury Minister Justine Greening said Miliband was making proposals that cost more money while saying he wanted to cut the deficit. “His total lack of answers on the economy shows how weak a leader he is,” she said in a statement. — Reuters

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Adrian Croft
Adrian Croft works from London, England. Reuters sub-editor in London. Previously Reuters European Defence Editor in Brussels and before that reported from UK, Spain, U.S., Latin America, South Africa. Adrian Croft has over 929 followers on Twitter.

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