Tough times lie ahead: David Cameron
A year ago in his New Year's message David Cameron predicted that 2011 could be the year that Britain got "back on its feet".
But 12 months is a very long time in politics and the Prime Minister yesterday struck an altogether less optimistic tone in his annual missive to the nation.
Acknowledging that many people were "worried about what the year might bring", Mr Cameron said he did not underestimate how bad the economic situation was and would continue to be.
"I know how difficult it will be to get through this," he said. But the forthcoming Olympics and Diamond Jubilee gave Britain "an extraordinary incentive to look outward" and "feel pride in what we can achieve".
"This will be the year Britain sees the world and the world sees Britain. It must be the year we go for it - the year the Coalition Government I lead does everything it takes to get our country up to strength."
With internal polling by both Labour and the Conservatives showing that Mr Cameron is vulnerable to the charge of being "out of touch" with ordinary people, the Prime Minister insisted he understood the economic hardship people were facing.
"There are fears about jobs and paying the bills. The search for work has become difficult, particularly for young people. And rising prices have hit household budgets. I get that."
And shamelessly adopting Ed Miliband's demand for responsibility at both the top and bottom of society, Mr Cameron added: "While a few at the top get rewards that seem to have nothing to do with the risks they take or the effort they put in, many others are stuck on benefits, without hope or responsibility. So we will tackle excess in the City."
Mr Miliband intends to capitalise on Mr Cameron's vulnerability in being seen not to relate to people's economic travails with a series of high profile campaigns on rising rail and energy prices.
The leaders of Germany and France also used their New Year messages to brace their populations for more tough times. In a TV address, Chancellor Angela Merkel said "next year will no doubt be more difficult than 2011". President Nicolas Sarkozy said: "I know that the lives of many of you, already tested by two difficult years, have been put to the test once more."