LONDON - THE economic crisis is the worst seen in more than a century, surpassing even the Great Depression, a British minister said in comments reported on Monday.
Children's secretary Ed Balls told supporters in the northern English city of Sheffield that the financial turmoil would define British politics for the 'next year, the next five years, the next 10 and even the next 15 years,' according to the Yorkshire Post, a local newspaper.
'These are seismic events that are going to change the political landscape,' Balls was quoted as saying by the Post, adding that he feared a resurgence of far-right politics in response to the downturn.
'I think that this is a financial crisis more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s and we all remember how the politics of that era were shaped by the economy,' Mr Balls was quoted as saying.
Britain's ruling Labour Party said Mr Balls had been speaking at the regional party conference held in Sheffield over the weekend. It said no copy of Me Balls' speech was available because the minister had been speaking from notes, but did not dispute the account carried on the Yorkshire Post's website on Monday.
British officials have offered contradictory assessments of how long the recession is expected to last in Britain: Business Minister Baroness Shriti Vadera was widely criticized for claiming to have seen the 'green shoots' of recovery in a television interview in early January. Housing minister Margaret Beckett also raised eyebrows with talk of a possible rebound in property prices.
Mr Balls' assessment seemed far more grim - and his words carry more weight because of his background in financial journalism, his previous roles as economic adviser to the British treasury, and his close relationship with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Opposition lawmaker Vince Cable said the government was sending out mixed messages.
'Instead of giving clear and consistent leadership, government ministers are oscillating between complacent optimism and this doom-laden picture of Armageddon. Surely the truth lies between the two?' Mr Cable said. -- AFP