LONDON (AFP) - Britain failed to exit its deep recession in the third quarter, official data showed on Friday, confounding expectations in a fresh blow to the nations beleaguered government before a general election. British gross domestic product (GDP) slumped 0.4 percent between July and September compared with shrinking output of 0.6 percent in the second quarter, the Office for National Statistics announced in an eagerly-awaited statement. Economists had widely expected Britain to exit recession in the third quarter with a return to growth of 0.2 percent after five quarters of shrinking output. Finance minister Alistair Darling said he had predicted a return to growth at the turn of year, but the main opposition Conservatives, expected to win back power next year, described the figures as deeply disappointing. Its clear (Prime Minister) Gordon Browns recession plan has not worked, there is no economic leadership in this country and we urgently need a change of direction to get this country working again, the Conservatives economic spokesman George Osborne told Sky News television. There are many millions of people who will be deeply concerned to see that Britain is still in recession six months after France and Germany came out of recession. It destroys the myth that Britain was better prepared to tackle the financial crisis. British GDP slumped by 5.2 percent in the third quarter compared with the July-September period in 2008. Britain had hoped to join France, Germany and Japan in exiting recession, which refers to two consecutive quarters of contracting output, while the United States is expected to have returned to positive growth in the third quarter. Champagne corks go back into bottles, Investec Securities analyst Philip Shaw wrote in a note to clients as he pointed out that Britains economy had now contracted 5.9 percent since the downturn began, close to the depth of a British recession in the 1980s. Britains economic recovery was already expected to be far from rosy ahead of a general election due by mid-2010 under the weight of mounting debt and unemployment. The countrys deficit ballooned to a record high in September as the public purse buckled under the weight of a recession that began in the second quarter of 2008. Britain borrowed 77.3 billion pounds (84.8 billion euros, 127 billion dollars) between April and September the highest fiscal half-year amount since records began in 1946, official data showed on Tuesday. Economists are warning that public borrowing this year would easily breach the governments official target of 175 billion pounds. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed in Britain climbed by 210,000 to 2.47 million in the three months to July the highest level since May 1995. As Ive repeatedly said, were facing the worst global financial crisis and recession in 60 years, Darling said on Friday in reaction to the GDP data. Weve always said that we remain cautious as a result of the high degree of economic uncertainty. The Bank of England has sought to combat the recession with record-low interest rates and a radical policy of quantitative easing pumping new cash into the economy to help kick-start lending to businesses and individuals.