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Coalition taking Britain back to Thatcher - Balls

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Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has accused David Cameron of taking Britain back to the era of “nasty confrontation” which marked Margaret Thatcher’s years as prime minister.

Mr Balls said that the government was playing a “dangerous game” with its programme of spending cuts, mounting what he described as a “real assault” on public services.

His comments, in an interview with the BBC Politics Show north-west to be broadcast today, came as justice secretary Kenneth Clarke warned that Middle England did not yet fully understand what was about to hit them.

Mr Balls cited an open letter to The Times signed by more than 90 senior Liberal Democrat councillors, complaining that the government was cutting too far, too fast, as evidence of the damage that was being done.

He said that the coalition’s top leadership - such as Mr Cameron, chancellor George Osborne, and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg - were out of touch with the realities of life facing ordinary voters.

“I think David Cameron is playing a really dangerous game here. People remember the 1980s - deep cuts, trouble in the streets and Margaret Thatcher goading confrontation, blaming local councils,” he said.

“David Cameron is taking us back to those days. I think people up and down the country are saying ‘Look, we’ve moved beyond that, we don’t want that nasty confrontation’. I think he is making a really, really unwise choice here.

“Increasingly I think people are looking at David Cameron and George Osborne and Nick Clegg and saying they are not in touch with the reality of our lives. It’s dangerous for them.”

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Clarke warned that the coalition was going to face “some political difficulty” as people began to grasp just how hard they would be hit.

Mr Clarke, who was chancellor of the exchequer in the last Conservative government, described the current economic situation as “calamitous” and warned there would be no “quick rebound”.

“One reason we’re going to get some political difficulty is that (while) the public knows we’ve got to do something about it, I don’t think Middle England has quite taken on board the scale of the problem,” he said.

“That will emerge as the cuts start coming home this year. We’ve got to get on with it (but) it’s going to be very difficult. If someone says it’s not as bad as all that, I say (they) just don’t realise the calamitous position we’re in.”

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