The whole country is this weekend watching and celebrating the start of the Olympics. Everybody wants it to be a success. And all the extra visitors should give our economy a much-needed shot in the arm.
But this short-term boost will not be enough to give us the jobs and economic growth we need for the long term.
Last week’s figures showed that over the last two years David Cameron and George Osborne have turned Britain’s recovery into a flatlining economy and now a deep and deepening recession.
Despite all the problems in the euro area, we are now the only major country in the world other than Italy in a double-dip recession.
And because the recession plus rising long-term unemployment is leading to a bigger benefits bill, Government borrowing is now going up.
The Tory and Lib Dem plan has failed. And the country is paying a heavy price. One million young people are out of work. Businesses are going bust. And prices are still rising faster than wages.
Nobody said it would be easy. After the global crash it was always going to be difficult to get the economy back on track and the deficit down.
That’s why there need to be tough decisions on tax, spending and pay. But Labour warned the Government that going too far and too fast with bigger tax rises and faster spending cuts would choke off the recovery and make it harder to reduce the deficit.
Those worst fears have now come true. And it’s why the experts at the International Monetary Fund, business groups and even Boris Johnson are now joining Labour in calling for a change of course.
We need a more balanced plan to get the economy moving again, get people back to work and so get the deficit down. That’s why I say we need a tax on bank bonuses to fund jobs for young people and boost the construction industry by building thousands more affordable homes.
Let’s get our banks lending to businesses again and give every small firm a tax break if they take on extra workers. And let’s ease the squeeze on families and pensioners with a temporary cut in VAT.
Britain needs a new direction. But if we have to wait until the General Election before that happens then I fear more and more damage will be done.
That’s why I want the Government to change course now. And it’s why I have offered to work with them to draw up a new economic plan.
It would mean Vince Cable recognising that he was right before the election — when he joined Labour in warning that the Tory plan risked making things worse — but wrong now to keep backing the same old failing policies.
And it would mean David Cameron and George Osborne putting the best interests of the country above their short-term political pride.
If last week’s figures won’t make the Government wake up and change course, then I don’t know what will. But the longer they stick to this failing plan, the heavier the price our country will pay.