Page last updated at 06:55 GMT, Thursday, 1 January 2009

Brown warns of tough year ahead

PM Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown has warned 2009 "won't be easy" for Britain as it deals with the global economic crisis.

In the prime minister's traditional new year message he insisted Britain would pull through - but he admitted the challenge was "enormous".

The PM tried to strike an optimistic note, saying the British people and the government had shown their ability to meet similar challenges in the past.

But shadow chancellor George Osborne accused Mr Brown of "arrogance".

He said in a statement: "Gordon Brown is living in a fantasy land of his own imagination - not the Britain of 2009.

"He talks of tomorrow, but ignores the role he played in creating the mess of today."

The prime minister said 2009 should be about preparing jobs and infrastructure for the future.

"This coming year won't be easy, but I am determined that this government will be the rock of stability and fairness on which the British people can depend," he said.

"The scale of the challenges we face is matched by the strength of my optimism that the British people can and will rise to meet them.

"Because we're not a do nothing people and we've always risen to every challenge, we can meet the security challenge, the environmental challenge and the enormous economic challenge."

Today the issues may be difference, more complex, more global
Gordon Brown

The PM said the task for 2009 is to "build tomorrow", with jobs for the digital age and the green agenda, new transport and communications infrastructure and enhanced skills.

He said that by working with Britain's world partners, such actions would ensure the UK would "hit the ground running" after the downturn.

"Today the issues may be difference, more complex, more global," he said.

"And yet the qualities that are needed to meet them have been demonstrated in abundance by the British people before."

Mr Brown also set out his ambition to see a new economic philosophy replace the "unbridled free market dogma" which has been discredited by the financial crisis.

"I want 2009 to be the year when the dawn of a new progressive era breaks across the world," he said.

'Swift and decisive'

That would mean governments investing through economic lows and offering "real help" to families and businesses when they were most in need.

In what could be seen as an attack on the Conservatives, he insisted failure to act would lead to a worse downturn and a weaker economy in the future.

He offers no apology for leading Britain from boom into bust
Shadow chancellor George Osborne

Mr Brown portrayed the government's response to the autumn banking crisis - such as the recapitalisation of high street banks - as a "decisive" strategy to quell people's fears.

"The scale and speed of the global financial crisis was, at times, almost overwhelming. I know that people felt bewildered, confused and sometimes frightened," he said.

"That is why the response had to be swift and decisive."

He insisted that his "guiding principle" was the wellbeing of British families and businesses and added: "What keeps me up at night, and gets me up in the morning, are the hopes and aspirations of the British people."

Mr Osborne attacked the prime minister, blaming him for the problems facing the country in 2009.

"He offers no apology for leading Britain from boom into bust, no explanation of why our country is now the worst affected in Europe, no excuse for why six months of policy announcements have achieved nothing except to add to our national debt," the shadow chancellor said.

"He has the arrogance to use Churchillian language when he will go down in history as the politician who spent 10 years in high office failing to prepare Britain for the gathering storm.

"The only thing he hardly dares talk about is change, because he knows one of things the British people want to see in 2009 is a change of government."

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