David Cameron has used his New Year message to insist Britain’s economy is on the right track, but declined to raise controversial issues such as gay marriage, EU, or even the horse, Raisa.
In a year which saw the Thick of It phrase “omnishambles” enter Hansard, 2012 has encompassed a series of U-turns including over ‘pastygate’, charity taxes, caravans tax and petrol taxes.
The year also saw his deputy, Nick Clegg, issue a televised apology for reversing the Lib Dems policy not to increase tuition fees. That apology subsequently went viral after it was autotuned to music.
The coalition has also found itself consistently defending its austerity programme, with the Autumn Statement seeing George Osborne admit that austerity would need to continue until at least 2018, and a fresh round of £10bn welfare cuts.
The prime minister said that Britain is “heading in the right direction” and can celebrate 2012 as “an extraordinary year for our country”.
However he failed to raise the Leveson Inquiry. Although it exonerated his then culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and said he had not acted partially when considering the Murdoch bid for BskyB, the inquiry gave a glimpse into how keen the government was to court the Murdoch empire.
That courtship included Mr Cameron riding a horse, Raisa, belonging to the former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, and text messages between the pair with Mr Cameron ending his with ‘LOL’. Ms Brooks told the inquiry he believed that meant “love you lots”.
He also failed to mention the lack of progress made on Syria, or controversial new arms deals in the Middle East, or Afghanistan, where security remains a problem.
The past year has also seen the rise of UKIP, which is doing its best to nestle in as the third largest party in the UK. Recent polls have suggested that the party has almost double the support of the coalition partners, the Lib Dems, with around 15 per cent.
After a year in which Britain faced a double-dip recession, Mr Cameron said that the deficit is forecast to be a quarter smaller at the New Year than it was when the coalition government came to office.
In his video address for 2012, Mr Cameron said: “This is my message to the country at the start of 2013. We can look to the future with realism and optimism. Realism, because you can’t cure problems that were decades in the making overnight. There are no quick fixes and I wouldn’t claim otherwise.
“But we can be optimistic too because we are making tangible progress. We are doing what’s right for our country and what’s best for our children’s future.”
Insisting that “we are on the right track”, Mr Cameron said: “On all the big issues that matter to Britain, we are heading in the right direction and I have the evidence to prove it.”
He said there are almost half a million more people in work, and more than 1,000 new academy schools have opened.
“This is, quite simply, a government in a hurry,” he said. “And there’s a reason for that. Britain is in a global race to succeed today. It is a race with countries like China, India and Indonesia; a race for the jobs and opportunities of the future.
“So when people say we can slow down on cutting our debts, we are saying no. We can’t win in this world with a great millstone of debt round our necks.
“When people say we’ve got to stop our welfare reforms because somehow it is cruel to expect people to work, we are saying no. Getting people into good jobs is absolutely vital, not just for them, but for all of us.
“And when there is a fight on our hands to change our schools, we are ready and willing to have it, because having a world-class education is the only way our children are going to get on in this world.”
Labour poured cold water on the message given by Mr Cameron, citing the cutting of the upper tax rate from 50p to 45p and continuing unemployment as further evidence of the Tories’ apparent inability to connect with working families.
The party’s vice chair Michael Dugher said: “It’s a case of more of the same from David Cameron.
“In his New Year message, Cameron talks of people who work hard in this country but he’s the one hitting hard-working families on lower and middle incomes whilst cutting taxes for millionaires.
“David Cameron stands for the old divide and rule Tory approach of the past – he can’t be the ‘One Nation’ prime minister Britain needs.
“Cameron promised change but nothing is changing for the better. Britain’s economy is failing under his policies over the last year, with nearly one million young people out of work. Prices are still going up faster than wages and borrowing is going up not down, over seven per cent higher this year than last year.
“This prime minister is out of touch, he stands up for the wrong people and he’s failing to deliver for working people.”