Ed Miliband under pressure over Labour's spending plans for the 2015 election

Blairites want the party to tackle the perception that it is “soft” on benefit claimants

Ed Miliband is under mounting Labour pressure to adopt a tougher line on welfare in an attempt to reassure voters about his plans to spend more than the Conservatives if the party regains power.

Blairites are prepared to support a 2015 election pledge for higher spending on major projects such as housebuilding - but want Mr Miliband to tackle the perception that the party is “soft” on benefit claimants in return. They also want Labour to set out soon a firm timetable for tackling the deficit.

The Independent disclosed that Labour is preparing to pledge at the next election to spend more than the Tories as part of a “new economic settlement”. That would mean no repeat of New Labour’s landmark promise before the 1997 election to stick to the Tory Government’s spending plans for its first two years in power.

Afterwards Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, insisted that no decision had been taken “now” to outspend the Tories but left the option open. He told LBC 97.3 radio in London it would be “totally irresponsible” to set out Labour’s tax and spending plans two years before an election. “We don’t know how badly the economy is going to be then. We’re going to be spending much more than we wanted to because he [George Osborne] can’t get unemployment down. We don’t know where we will be in two years’ time,” he said.

One shadow minister said: “We cannot take a final decision until we know how much the Coalition would spend. But our direction of travel is clear – to spend more on investment in order to rebuild Britain.”

Lord Mandelson, the Blairite former Cabinet minister, said : “If Labour wants to fight the next election with the pledge of more capital spending, the party will need to keep a sharp eye open for any adverse market reaction as the continuing high level of debt as proportion of GDP could weaken confidence. The party also needs to show where it will be tough elsewhere, for example on public sector pay and welfare spending."

Although Labour has pledged to dock benefits of the long-term unemployed if they turn down a government-guaranteed job, some frontbenchers are worried that the party is in danger of losing the argument on welfare and, in turn, on the deficit. Simon Danzcuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, said that “spending my childhood on benefits made me realise it can easily become a destructive comfort blanket, which does as much harm as good.”

Miliband aides said Labour would set out in its own time “a different course on welfare reform to ensure people who can work do so.”

Some Blairites had hoped that Labour would stick within the Coalition’s spending ceiling for the post-2015 period and cut the cake differently. The Progress group said Labour should “adopt the Coalition’s spending limits for the first two years of the next parliament, the period over which the deficit is supposed to be eliminated. As it did in 1997, such an announcement will reassure the voters that Labour will, in the words of the party’s manifesto at the time, ‘be wise spenders, not big spenders’.”

The Tories seized on The Independent’s report. Launching his party’s local election campaign in Nuneaton, David Cameron said: “The Labour leader is turning left. More spending. More borrowing. More debt. More of all those things that got us into this mess.” Grant Shapps, the Tory chairman, said: "We've always known Labour don't get it. It has always wanted more spending, more borrowing and more debt. And now it has explicitly confirmed that it will spend more. It is a left-wing party that would take Britain back to the brink of bankruptcy."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project