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."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz