Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Thursday, 13 November 2008

Brown blew my legacy, says Major

John Major
John Major was prime minister from 1990 to 1997

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has accused Gordon Brown of squandering the favourable economic legacy he inherited from the Conservatives.

In an article for The Times, Sir John said Labour "has as much financial blood on its hands as any banker".

He said Mr Brown took credit for the years of economic growth he inherited from the Tories in 1997.

And the former Tory PM accused Mr Brown of presiding over a debt-fuelled boom in property and asset prices.

"Ministers foresaw nothing of what was building up and, to judge by their inaction, understood even less.

"Their failure to do so is one reason the future is bleak for so many who did not profit from the boom, but will surely suffer from the bust," Sir John said.

'Feel-good factor'

He argues that Mr Brown wilfully ignored warnings about spiralling personal debt.

"The Labour Government wallowed in the feel-good factor of this easy money: it made it popular, won elections, so Labour let it rip. The IMF tried - repeatedly - to warn Tony Blair and Mr Brown of the dangers ahead, only to be told it was "mistaken" and "wrong". It was not.

"Mr Brown glosses over these errors," writes Sir John.

And he warned against "unfunded" tax cuts of the type being considered by the government as part of a "fiscal stimulus" package.

"There is no pain-free way forward from the mess we are in. My heart says "yes" to tax cuts; yet my head tells me that, if we pile debt upon debt, there will be a painful day of reckoning. Today's unfunded tax cut is tomorrow's tax increase," writes the former PM.

Sir John's own economic policy was blown apart by Britain's exit from the European Exchange Rate mechanism in 1992, which led to a thumping defeat at the 1997 election and a decade-long slump in Tory poll ratings.

But, he has argued, the measures his government introduced in the aftermath - using interest rates to solely target inflation - led to the economic growth and falling unemployment Labour inherited in 1997.

"For 11 years Mr Brown has claimed personal credit for the economy that Labour inherited but the Conservatives created: 'We have had the longest period of growth in the history of this country,' he says, conveniently forgetting that the first five years of this growth came under the last Conservative government," writes Sir John.

"As Mr Brown heads towards Washington, in his self-appointed role as economic czar to the wider world, there will no doubt be a spring in his step. But come the next general election the public will not be so easily fooled, or forgiving."

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