* Says economy needs recovery time like Wayne Rooney's foot
* Cutting public spending this year could risk 2nd recession
* Attacks opposition plans day before expected election call
(Adds details, context)
By Tim Castle
LONDON, April 5 Like injured England soccer star
Wayne Rooney, Britain's economy must be nurtured carefully back
to full health and Conservative plans to cut spending risk
damaging a fragile recovery, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.
Brown, who is expected to call on Tuesday for an election to
be held on May 6, seized on the soccer analogy to explain why
his Labour government is against public spending cuts this year
in spite of a 163 billion pound ($248 billion) budget deficit.
The opposition Conservatives, ahead in opinion polls, say
they will reduce spending by six billion pounds this year if
they win the election. Failing to act, they say, would endanger
Britain's top credit rating and drive up interest rates.
Manchester United striker Rooney, recovering from damaged
ankle ligaments, is top scorer in this season's English premier
league and carries the hopes of England fans in the soccer World
Cup, which kicks off in South Africa in June. [ID:nLDE6301QU]
Like Rooney's coaches, Brown said, policymakers should not
force the economy to "jump off the treatment table as if nothing
"I know Wayne Rooney's just had an injury to his foot and I
know everyone will be hoping he's fit for the World Cup," Brown
said in a video message on his Downing Street website.
"But after an injury you need support to recover, you need
support to get back to match fitness, you need support to get
back your full strength and then go on to lift the World Cup."
Labour has pledged to halve the deficit over four years and
the Conservatives say they will do more than that without saying
exactly how much more. Financial markets have treated both plans
with scepticism because they lack specifics.
Brown is an experienced policymaker but lacks his
predecessor Tony Blair's charm. He has faced ridicule for
previous attempts to depict himself as an ordinary guy.
But the Rooney comparison may hit home with many voters who
feel disenfranchised by politics following a parliamentary
expenses scandal and sidelined by academic arguments about
budget deficits and credit ratings.
Brown said the economy was "not back to full fitness" and
withdrawing support too early was risky. "That's why I think
it's wrong to say that we should take six or seven billion
pounds out of the economy this year," he said.
The Conservatives had worked hard to soothe market fears
about the deficit before weak economic data forced them to
soften their rhetoric.
Now markets are most concerned that the election could
result in a hung parliament, where no one party has overall
control, hindering efforts to deal with the deficit.
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(Additional reporting by Matt Falloon; editing by Noah Barkin)