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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?