UK Politics

Labour accuses coalition of giving up on growth

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Media captionEd Miliband: "It's like the captain of the Titanic saying 'let's carry on towards that iceberg'"

The UK risks sliding into a "lost decade" because of the government's failure to get the economy back on track, Labour's leader has said.

In a speech, Ed Miliband accused the chancellor of giving up on efforts to restore growth soon.

Following the Budget which forecast a bleak economic outlook, Mr Miliband focused on the cost of living.

He spoke in Birmingham at a "policy forum" of Labour and non-Labour participants.

Mr Miliband said there was a huge sense of disappointment with the government.

"I'm very optimistic about Britain because of its people. We've got good people who are being let down by a bad government," he said.

"That's the reality about Britain today. And I think it's a reality that we can turn round. But we can only do it if we unite our country and we have a government that unites our country."

He added that he understood if people thought no party could do anything about the country's problems - but said there were solutions.

Referring to the Budget, Mr Miliband said that it offered more of the same and the government had resigned itself to a lost decade over the economy.

And he admitted that Labour needed to earn the trust of voters again.

'Slowest recovery'

In the Budget, growth forecasts for 2013 were halved, prompting ratings agency Fitch to warn that it may downgrade the UK's AAA credit rating in April.

Last month another agency, Moody's, stripped the UK of its top AAA rating.

Mr Miliband said: "We're five years on from the financial crisis. And what is actually happening to our country? We've got the slowest recovery for 100 years. We've got people's wages that are flat, prices that are rising and living standards that are falling.

"Now here's the really depressing thing. What the government offered us last Wednesday [in the Budget] was just more of the same. No change.

"And no change isn't good enough. Think about another five years of this. Think about another five years of low growth. Another five years of falling living standards. Another five years of you paying the price. Britain can't afford another five years of this."

He added: "This government has resigned itself to a lost decade for our country. A lost decade that Britain cannot afford. A lost decade of national decline. A lost decade not when we make sacrifices to build a better future but when things get worse not better.

"The most important thing I say to you today is a lost decade is not inevitable for our country. And the task of one-nation Labour is to halt the slide into a lost decade for Britain."

One of Mr Miliband's senior advisers has described Labour's plan to change the economy as focusing on everyone, or "building from the middle out".

Mr Miliband's words came after former Labour Business Secretary Lord Mandelson criticised shadow chancellor Ed Balls for "predictable" attacks on the government's spending cuts.

Lord Mandelson said arguments about the depth and speed of cuts were outdated and Labour should focus on how to rebuild the economy.

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