LONDON: The public’s verdict was clear: Prime Minister David Cameron and Treasury chief George Osborne faced a chorus of boos at London’s Paralympic Games — a rare flash of hostility toward their belief that a sharp austerity drive is the best way to repair Britain’s debt-ravaged economy.
Anger is mounting amid a grueling four-year program of cuts to public jobs and welfare payments, which Osborne has conceded will need to be extended by at least two years and which some opponents worry has fueled Britain’s slump into its first recession since 2009.
Seeking to win back support and boost his prospects before the 2015 national election, Cameron on Tuesday made the first major overhaul of his Cabinet and 100-strong ministerial team since taking office in 2010.
While Cameron left most senior allies in place, he sought to sharpen his economic message by promoting a crop of young fiscal conservatives, and looked to exploit the success of the Olympic Games in appointing Paul Deighton, chief executive of the London organizing committee, as a new finance minister.
Osborne — architect of the unpopular $130 billion in budget trimming — gave an uncomfortable smile late Monday as he faced loud heckles at a Paralympic Games medal ceremony. Cameron, meanwhile, heard both boos and cheers when his image was shown on a jumbo screen inside the Aquatics Center.
The outbursts were rare amid the upbeat mood of Britain’s summer of sports but underscored resentment over cuts to welfare payments, particularly a program assessing whether those who receive disability payments should continue to be eligible.