Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Sunday, 25 January 2009

Recovery 'to take years' - Clarke

Ken Clarke said he was "gloomy" about the UK's economic prospects

The UK's economic recovery is likely to take several years, shadow business secretary Ken Clarke has said.

Mr Clarke told the BBC that 2009 was set to be a "dreadful" year and should the Tories win the next election they would face a "difficult" economic task.

He said Labour was wasting billions on failed policies and markets were "losing confidence" in Gordon Brown.

On Europe, Mr Clarke said he did not expect UK entry into the euro to become a political issue again for many years.

'Gloomy'

Mr Clarke, who returned to the Conservative frontbench last week after 10 years on the backbenches, has been at odds with the Tory leadership over Europe for several years.

So far the crisis is deepening and we haven't achieved the one key objective to get the banking system working normally again
Ken Clarke

He said he was "gloomy" about economic prospects for the year ahead and said Labour had failed to get to grips with the financial crisis, resorting to a series of "panic-stricken" measures to try and support the banking system.

"We realised some money had to go in but the money has been pumped in ineffectually and it hasn't worked," he told the Andrew Marr show on BBC One.

"So far the crisis is deepening and we haven't achieved the one key objective to get the banking system working normally again."

He added: "The Conservatives are going to find themselves presiding over a difficult recovery which will probably take a few years when we get in."

Mr Clarke said the "collapse" in sterling in recent weeks weeks was worrying but said talk of a financial "calamity", with the prospect of the UK having to go cap in hand to the IMF for emergency financial support, was not "realistic".

Conservative leader David Cameron has warned of the very real risk of the UK potentially running out cash and having to seek external support.

Turning to the euro, Mr Clarke said the Conservatives now had a settled policy on Europe which he described as "moderate".

He added that he did not expect the case for Britain's entry into the euro to become an issue again in his "political lifetime".

'Crisis of confidence'

Speaking on the same programme, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said there was a "crisis of confidence in Britain PLC".

Nick Clegg: 'We must retain optimism'

He said the economic model of the past 20 years, driven by minimal regulation and "subservience" to financial markets, had been swept away and only the Lib Dems could offer the radical changes needed to address these problems.

"The future is going to look dramatically different to the past in terms of how we run our economy," he said.

For Labour, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said opposition politicians and commentators must be careful about the language they used and ensure they didn't talk down the economy.

Figures published on Friday showed that the UK was now in recession and had seen in biggest drop in growth in 20 years in the last three months of 2008.



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