- Former Labour PM makes rare public appearance in Cowdenbeath
- Used launch of by-election campaign to attack coalition policy
- Accused George Osborne of ‘three lost years’ without economic growth
- Tories dismiss attack from ex-PM and call on him to quit the Commons
“Gordon Brown today accused the Tories of targeting the jobless, elderly and disabled for no reason in a return to frontline politics.
The former Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor accused Conservative George Osborne of presiding over a ‘lost three years’ without economic growth.
In a rare public appearance at the launch of a by-election campaign, Mr Brown also warned Scottish independence would result in a damaging ‘dog-eats-dog competition’ between countries to attract jobs and business.
Mr Brown was speaking at the launch of Scottish Labour’s Cowdenbeath by-election campaign in the Ore Valley Business Centre in Lochgelly, Fife.
His Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Westminster seat covers the Holyrood constituency, where the death of long-standing MSP Helen Eadie has triggered a Scottish Parliament by-election.
Mr Brown has barely commented on British politics and economics since being ousted from Downing Street in May 2010.
But he used today’s event to launch an attack on Mr Osborne. ‘The big issue is to get growth, and I’m afraid that we lost three years from 2010 to 2013 when we did not have growth,’ Mr Brown said.
‘The test will be whether we return to growth. But you’ve got to have growth with social justice in the modern world. We all understand here the importance of social justice.
‘If you start to hurt people who are unemployed simply because they are unemployed and you can’t give them a job.
‘If you start to penalise pensioners simply because they are elderly; if you start to hit people who are disabled simply because they are disabled.
‘And if you impose things like the “bedroom tax” that discriminates against people when they are disabled and they have special needs; then I think that is something not just the people in Scotland but people across the whole of the United Kingdom oppose.’
But the Tories dismissed the attack almost four years after Mr Brown left office.
A Conservative source said: ‘How does he know what’s going on given the fact he has only been in Parliament a handful of times since he was booted out of Number 10?
‘All we have seen since he left government is a complete disregard for the taxpayer. He should do the decent thing and step down.’
Mr Brown also launched a stinging attack on SNP leader Alex Salmond’s vision of Scottish independence.
‘What the SNP are forgetting is that in the last 100 years, we created in Scotland and across the United Kingdom a pooling and sharing of resources, where everyone – irrespective of their nationality – has an equal right to healthcare, an equal right to unemployment benefit, an equal right to pensions, and all the benefits of the welfare state.
‘If we decide that we want to give that up then people will have to be told by the SNP what are the consequences for pensioners, for young people, for people who are unemployed, for people who are sick and disabled.
‘We [Scotland] get a far larger share of money for pensions and for incapacity benefit.
‘Just take one issue – minimum wage. If we decided that Scotland was to be independent, and then Wales or Northern Ireland was also doing separate things as well, if you had a separate minimum wage then the race would be on to the bottom.
‘Employers would say ‘we’ll come to Scotland if you reduce the minimum wage’, ‘we’ll come to Wales if you cut the minimum wage’, so instead of the pooling and sharing of resources to the benefit of all people, what we’d end up with is a race to the bottom, a dog-eats-dog competition, divide-and-rule. And then all the benefits built up over a long period of time will be put at risk.’
Mr Brown singled out the SNP’s plan to cut the tax of company profits – corporation tax – by up to three per cent if there is a ‘Yes’ vote in this year’s referendum.
‘Whatever the effects are on business we don’t know, but what you do know is that [there would be] less money available for pensions, for public services, for education and for health.
‘I think as we go to next September we’ve got to think very carefully. We believe in the union of social justice – social justice between the nations of the United Kingdom. We believe that is to the benefit of the Scottish people and the SNP have not shown to me any detailed way how they would replace this union of social justice and guarantee that those people who benefit from that will not be worse off.’” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2535925/Stop-hurting-jobless-elderly-disabled-no-reason-Gordon-Brown-warns-returns-political-exile-attack-Tories.html)