Page last updated at 21:55 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Tories attack economy 'admission'

George Osborne
Mr Osborne said the comments amounted to an admission Britain faced a 'disaster'

The Tories have seized on comments from Olympics minister Tessa Jowell that Britain is facing a recession "deeper than any that we have known".

They say her comments in a BBC interview contradict the chancellor's claim that the UK economy would return to growth in the second half of 2009.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said it was a "stunning admission of the true disaster" facing Britain.

Ms Jowell later accused him of the "politics of the playground".

Her comments came on BBC Two's Daily Politics programme when she was asked about the 2012 Olympics' 9.325bn budget, at a time when Britain is expected to go into recession.

'Economic gold'

She told the programme it had been right to bid for the Olympics because of the sporting legacy it would create.

"But, as it turns out, facing a recession deeper than any that we have known, almost certainly, the Olympics is, I mean, it's economic gold at a time of economic need," she said.

She said it would create jobs, business and commercial opportunities and would be a 6bn "shot in the arm".

This is the politics of the playground
Tessa Jowell
Olympics minister

But later Mr Osborne said the comments demolished the chancellor's predictions for the British economy.

Chancellor Alistair Darling has said a recession is likely but he expects growth to return "in the second half of next year".

Mr Osborne said Ms Jowell's comments were "a stunning admission of the true disaster that Gordon Brown and the Labour government has visited on the country".

"For months they tried to pretend Britain would be better off than previous recessions.

"Now someone who sits round Gordon Brown's Cabinet table admits that it will be worse," he said.

"If that is true then all the forecasts made by the chancellor just a few weeks ago will be blown out of the water."

'Real leadership'

Conservative leader David Cameron also raised the comments in the House of Commons later asking Gordon Brown: "Isn't it clear we are not well prepared?"

Mr Brown's spokesman said later the forecasts for the economy had been set out in the pre-Budget report.

And Ms Jowell said later the row exposed "the complete emptiness of the Tories' response to the challenges we are facing".

First, Tessa Jowell and now Alistair Darling himself have admitted that Britain is predicted to have one of the worst recessions in its recent history
George Osborne
Shadow chancellor

"This is the politics of the playground," she said.

"Gordon Brown is showing real leadership and offering real action to help families, homeowners and businesses."

Later in the Commons Mr Darling was asked why the European Commission and the IMF were predicting the UK would be the hardest hit among the developed world.

Mr Darling said: "London is the major financial services sector of the world.

"Of course we are likely to be more severely affected as a result of the profitability being reduced and I've made that point on many occasions.

"We're also affected by the downturn in the housing market because of the reduced revenues in relation to stamp duty.

"But there's not a country in the world now that isn't being affected. This truly is a global problem."

Mr Osborne said: "First, Tessa Jowell and now Alistair Darling himself have admitted that Britain is predicted to have one of the worst recessions in its recent history."

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