Ed Miliband will today (Thursday) deliver a major speech on how the next Labour government will build a strong economic foundation by dealing with the deficit and balancing the books – but never going down the Tory road to take Britain back to 1930s spending levels which existed before the NHS.
In his speech, Mr Miliband will attack the Tories for pursuing an extreme project, motivated by ideology rather than necessity, which will put vital public services at risk:
“My speech today is about the deficit. Its place in our priorities, how a Labour government would deal with it, and how we would do so consistent with our values.
“The Tory plan is to return spending on public services to a share last seen in the 1930s: a time before there was a National Health Service and when young people left school at 14. There is only one 35 per cent strategy in British politics today: the Tory plan for cutting back the state and spending on services to little more than a third of national income.
“And they have finally been exposed by the Autumn Statement for what they really are: not modern compassionate Conservatives at all – but extreme and ideological, committed to a dramatic shrinking of the state and public services, no matter what the consequences.
“They are doing it, not because they have to do it, but because they want to. That is not our programme, that will never be our programme, and I do not believe it is the programme the British people want.
“This is a recipe for public services that will disintegrate and for a permanent cost of living crisis because we won’t be investing in the skills and education people need for good quality jobs, and indeed for sufficient tax revenues. And we know what the result will be: the Tories might be able to deliver the cuts they have promised, but they won’t be able to cut the deficit as they promised.”
Mr Miliband will set out a tough and balanced One Nation Labour approach to dealing with the deficit based on five principles:
1. Setting a credible and sensible goal to balance the books and get the national debt falling as soon as possible within the next Parliament.
Not having a fiscal plan which sets a target of a 35 percent state, putting public services and productive investment at risk.
2. Recognising that Britain will only be able to deal with the deficit by tackling the cost-of-living crisis.
Not allowing welfare spending to rise and tax revenues to fall because of low wages, insecure jobs, housing shortages and social failure.
3. Making common sense spending reductions with departmental spending falling and using money better by devolving power, breaking down old bureaucracies, and rebuilding public services around early intervention.
Not cutting spending to 35 percent of national income that will lead to disintegrating public services and a permanent cost-of-living crisis because we won’t be investing in the skills needed for good jobs and healthy revenues.
4. Protect everyday working people by ensuring those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden.
Not cutting taxes for the wealthiest while asking everyday working people to pay more.
5. Promising new policies only when they are fully funded, like Labour’s £2.5 billion time to Care Fund for the NHS, so that they do not require any additional borrowing
Not making commitments that depend on borrowing or promising unfunded tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest that will eventually be paid for by bigger cuts to public services or increases in VAT.
Ed Miliband will say:
“Labour will make fairer choices to help protect vital services and balance the books with measures including a Mansion Tax on properties worth more than £2 million, cracking down on tax avoidance, and reversing the millionaires’ tax cut to restore the 50p rate on incomes over £150,000 a year.
“In these hard times, we are determined to do everything we can to protect everyday taxpayers from bearing an increased burden and to do all we can to protect public services. And those who have done best, under this government and indeed under the last, must pay their fair share.
“We want successful entrepreneurs and those who do well to be rewarded. But we must pull together as a society not drift apart and we cannot do that if deficit reduction is simply on the backs of ordinary people.”
He will say that Labour will only make new commitments that are credible, costed and funded without additional borrowing – unlike the Conservatives who are promising unfunded tax cuts that would put public services at risk.
“This is an essential test of credibility. There is huge uncertainty about the deficit because of economic circumstances and on the basis of recent experience. That makes it all the more important that parties do not spray around unfunded commitments they cannot keep.
“It is why we will only make commitments in our manifesto that are properly funded – not commitments that depend on borrowing. That’s why we’ve explained how we will pay for every policy that we’ve put forward: costed, credible and funded.
“In contrast, the Conservative Party has pledged to make tax cuts when they have absolutely no idea how they will fund them: tax cuts that will cost over £7 billion a year at the end of the Parliament and even more, billions more, if they happen earlier in the Parliament.
“The Tories cannot say how they would fund their tax cuts skewed to help the wealthiest. This is not responsible and it is not right: the British people should be in no doubt what the Tory promise means: they will pay the price for tax cuts in higher VAT or even bigger cuts to public services. The Tories’ priority is unfunded tax cuts, Labour’s priority is to save our National Health Service.”
To underline Labour’s determination to deal with the deficit fairly and balance the books as soon as possible in the next parliament, Ed Balls has written to members of the Shadow Cabinet. He says:
“It’s now clear the Tories have abandoned any pretence of being in the centre-ground with an increasingly extreme and unbalanced plan. They have made an ideological choice to pencil in deeper spending cuts for the next Parliament because they are refusing to ask those with the broadest shoulders to make a greater contribution and, crucially, are ignoring the need for a plan to deliver the rising living standards and more good jobs that are vital to getting the deficit down.
In contrast, Labour will take a tough but balanced approach to getting the deficit down. Our economic plan will deliver the rising living standards, more good jobs and stronger and more balanced growth which are a vital part of any fair and balanced plan to get the deficit down.
We will make different and fairer choices from the Tories, including reversing this government’s £3 billion a year tax cut for people earning over £150,000 and taking action to close tax loopholes and introducing a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million in order to help save and transform our National Health Service.
And unlike George Osborne, we will not make any spending or tax commitments without saying where the money is coming from.”
Ed Balls intends to raise state spending rather than complying with Mr Osborne’s austerity plans of further drastic cuts, and he said his party will ring-fence more Whitehall budgets. A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found what most of us already knew: that income inequality actually stifles economic growth in some of the world’s wealthiest countries, whilst the redistribution of wealth via taxes and benefits encourages growth. Osborne’s economic policy is damaging the economy. Miliband has consistently put equality high on the list of Labour’s priorities, and quite rightly so.
Labour have proposed progressive taxation, they have pledged to save the NHS, safeguard benefits and repeal the Bedroom Tax, which affects the poorest people: those on low wages and those on benefits, costing them money that was calculated to meet only the basic living costs of food and fuel, originally. Benefit was calculated on the assumption that full housing costs and rates/council tax were also paid by Local Authorities. That is no longer the case. The Tory welfare cuts and rising cost of living have meant a return of absolute poverty, not seen in this country since before the establishment of the welfare state.
At the moment, health, foreign aid and schools are protected from spending cuts, but in his letter, Mr Balls told members of the shadow cabinet that “our manifesto will spell out other limited areas which will have spending protected.”
The Tories’ stated plan to continue cutting even once the deficit has been eliminated has given Labour the opening needed to point out the damaging ideological drive to shrink the state, and to dismiss austerity once and for all. Given that the Conservatives have rigidly set the terms of economic debate and have established a dominant frame of reference since taking office, I think the response to the Autumn statement from Labour is deft, careful and the proposals are costed, fair and viable.
Reducing the deficit can only happen once we have genuine (and widely shared) economic growth.
The alternative is the Conservative’s extreme, ideological never-ending austerity – all pain with no gain whatsosever for most people. For better or worse, deficit reduction is the political reality against which Labour’s economic credibility is now being defined. Cut the deficit Labour must; but they have taken reassuring steps to do it in a genuinely more comfortable, fair and intelligent way than the Tories.
The full text and more details of Ed Miliband’s speech about the deficit can be found here.
Many thanks to Robert Livingstone@LivingstonePics