LONDON — The British finance minister has warned the country is facing "arguably the worst" economic downturn in 60 years and says it will be "more profound and long-lasting" than people had expected.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling also admits in an interview with Saturday's Guardian newspaper that he had no idea how serious the credit crunch would become.
Darling also concedes that the beleaguered ruling Labour Party of Prime Minister Gordon Brown is partly to blame for its own woes because it has failed to properly communicate its aims to the country, leaving voters angry.
Darling warns that the economic conditions faced by Britain and the rest of the world "are arguably the worst they've been in 60 years".
He adds: "And I think it's going to be more profound and long-lasting than people thought."
The grim economic picture presents Labour with its toughest challenge since the 1980s, when it was stuck in opposition, he said.
"We've got our work cut out. This coming 12 months will be the most difficult 12 months the Labour party has had in a generation, quite frankly," he said.
"We've got to rediscover that zeal which won three elections, and that is a huge problem for us at the moment."
As British political leaders return to work on Monday after their summer break, the opposition Conservatives have a clear lead in opinion polls.
Labour have suffered a series of electoral setbacks, the latest when they lost one of their safest seats in the country in a by-election in Glasgow East in July.
Darling's admission came after official data this month showed the British economy recorded zero growth in the second quarter of the year and a Bank of England policymaker warned this week that two million people could be unemployed by the end of the year.
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