By Matthew Barrett
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Labour politicians have long pointed to their "Plan B", and their deficit reduction strategy that would, apparently, be carried out slower than the Coalition plan, and be less "painful". Ed Balls, Labour's Shadow Chancellor, told the House on Thursday – in a debate on the Global Economy, during the recalled Parliament's sitting – that Labour's plan for the country was "a tough, medium-term plan to get our deficit down". (Read Ed Balls' contribution to the debate in Hansard here.)
That "tough" plan would, according to this year's Budget, include £44 billion of spending cuts by 2014-15, including £14 billion in 2011-12. By contrast, the Coalition is cutting £16 billion in 2011-12.
Ed Miliband, in his leadership election victory speech at Labour's 2010 conference, said "I won’t oppose every cut the Coalition proposes", and Labour did initially support billions in cuts, including cuts to Employment Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, and the Legal Aid budget, as well as to the roads programme.
Despite their plans to cut £7 for every £8 the Coalition is cutting, the Labour frontbench withdrew its support for each of the cuts shown above and has now withdrawn its support for the final cut it agreed the Coalition should be making – the spending reductions to policing budgets. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have, therefore, reversed their decision on every cut they initially supported.
Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening said:
"Labour say they would make spending cuts, but they now oppose each and every one this Coalition Government is making. In the last few days Ed Balls said Labour have a tough plan to clear up the mess they left behind, but we have yet to see it. What would Labour cut? You cannot attack a plan if you don’t have a plan of your own.
Until Labour stop opportunistically attacking every measure we are taking to ensure we live within our means, they just aren’t credible. It’s clear that the only plan they do have is a Plan B for bankruptcy."