British Prime Minister David Cameron appealed to voters on Wednesday to give his government more time to secure the country's economic recovery and defended his deficit-cutting policies.
In a round of interviews a day before the government gives its twice-yearly budget update, Cameron said it would set out a long-term plan, involving "often unpopular decisions", to turn the economy round.
Britain's economy has made an unexpectedly strong return to growth this year after a long period of stagnation. But Cameron's Conservatives, bidding for re-election in May 2015, lag the opposition Labour Party in the polls. Labour says weak wage growth and rising household bills are creating a cost of living crisis.
Cameron said the latest budget update, known as the Autumn Statement, would give families help with energy bills and a freeze on local council taxes, but would not alter his flagship policy of cutting the budget deficit and controlling public borrowing.
"We are on the right track ... recovering our economy, getting jobs for our people and, over time, really fixing for the long term the mess we were left in the public finances," Cameron told the BBC during a visit to China aimed at boosting trade.
"The worst thing we could do is go back to the Labour approach of more borrowing, more spending, more debt - exactly the things that got us into this mess," Cameron added in a separate interview with Sky News. Labour oversaw a record peacetime budget deficit during its last term in office.
Polls suggest the Conservatives are more trusted to run the economy than Labour. On rising energy prices, however, Labour seized the initiative in September when its leader Ed Miliband promised to freeze household bills for 20 months if he wins power in 2015.
The idea proved popular with the public and was followed by a government promise to take steps to reduce bills by an average of 50 pounds ($82) a year.
Asked if he was playing catch-up, Cameron said his government had been discussing high energy costs for years and had hoped to act sooner.
"It has taken me longer than I'd have liked," Cameron told ITN.
"But I'm very glad that we have put in place some relief on energy bills."
Finance Minister George Osborne will deliver his budget update to parliament on Thursday.