Tax increases need to form part of Gordon Brown's strategy for dealing with Britain's deficit if he wants voters to believe that he will repair the economy, a former cabinet minister said last night.
Charles Clarke, who has been a constant critic of Mr Brown's leadership, said that the Prime Minister was right to delay action on tackling the deficit until next year. But he warned that while the Government talked of spending cuts, it also needed to consider tax increases such as road tolls and charges for some services to meet its target of halving the deficit over four years.
Mr Clarke, who was speaking during the Independent Live debate in Westminster, said that anyone who did not include tax rises "was in danger of being inauthentic" with voters. "People are looking for a degree of honesty," he said. "We need to talk about tax and spending, not just cuts, to reduce the deficit."
He added that the Labour Government was "culpable" in overseeing the rise in national debt. "We could and should have started restructuring the economy."
Chris Huhne, the home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said that the Tory policy of cutting spending this year was opposed by "every sane economist I know".
Michael Brown, the former Tory MP, said that "painful, deep cuts" were inevitable to protect Britain's economy in the long term.
On Iraq, Mr Clarke admitted that there had been an "absolute ineffectiveness" in post-war planning, but said the country was now better off without Saddam Hussein. He also said Clare Short was "wrong" when she told the Iraq Inquiry that the Cabinet was not allowed to discuss the planned invasion.