UK Politics

Chuka Umunna questions IMF chief Christine Lagarde's comments

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Media captionChuka Umunna: George Osborne sponsored IMF chief

Labour's Chuka Umunna has claimed the head of the IMF would not make comments "unhelpful" to George Osborne because he sponsored her for the job.

The shadow business secretary also told the BBC's Sunday Politics that Christine Lagarde was "not necessarily an oracle" on the economy.

On Tuesday Ms Lagarde said she "shivered" when she thought how the UK economy might have been without a "fiscal consolidation programme".

She also backed UK government policies.

In a press conference alongside Mr Osborne to unveil its annual report on the UK economy, Ms Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund's managing director, gave a strong endorsement of the government's actions.

Asked about her comments Mr Umunna said "you're not going to get Christine Lagarde making strongly strident comments against government policy given that George Osborne of course sponsored her for her position".

He was then asked if he was suggesting she was a propagandist for the chancellor: "No. I'm not saying that, but what I am saying is that you have to look what she says in the context of her relationship with the government.

"And also I'm saying that she's not necessarily an oracle on these matters."

Interviewer Andrew Neil then asked Mr Umunna why, in that case, Labour had claimed she was on side with its policies.

Mr Umunna replied: "Well, of course what she says matters, but she's not the only person who matters."

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Media captionChristine Lagarde: "When I look back to 2010 and what could have happened... I shiver"

He cited Ms Lagarde's deputy as saying that temporarily cutting VAT - which Labour has called for - would be one way of getting growth going again.

The IMF recently forecast UK growth of 2% in 2013.

The global body's revised UK forecasts now match those of the UK's independent Office for Budget Responsibility.

But both are more optimistic than most independent UK economists, who expect economic growth of about 1.6% next year.

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