Parliament & Politics: Left-wing challenge to Brown strategy

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Indy Politics
LEFT-WING Labour MPs last night challenged Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor, over his economic strategy by demanding 'a clear socialist commitment' to higher spending and higher taxes.

The Campaign Group of Labour MPs tabled a Commons motion warning their own front bench that 'massive public investment' and higher taxes would be needed to fulfil Labour's pledges for full employment, improved public services, and the regeneration of industry.

Although left-wing MPs said the motion was in line with Labour policy, it was seen as a warning for Mr Brown after the shadow Chancellor had been forced to reject all specific spending pledges, following a government counter-attack on Labour's tax and spending plans.

The left were alarmed at the disclosure that the party's health policy document had been stripped of spending pledges. Mr Brown rejected a plan by David Blunkett, the health spokesman, to raise NHS spending with an earmarked tax for health.

Dawn Primarolo, a member of the Campaign Group and a front bench spokesman on health, had supported the idea. She avoided signing the motion by her colleagues. That would have been a sackable offence, but the unease in the Labour ranks was not confined to the back benches.

Cabinet ministers said last night that they believed Labour had over- reached itself in attacking the Government on tax and spending. Ministers believe it the battleground on which the Tories are strongest.

However, Labour leaders are convinced the Tory lead on the economy has been broken by the increases in taxes in the past two Budgets, which will deepen the disenchantment of the Government's middle-class supporters.

Mr Brown's past critics in the Shadow Cabinet believe his cautious approach is paying dividends, and the Campaign Group are wrong to rock the boat, when Labour need to unite in attacking the Tories.

Labour's front bench spokesman on agriculture, Dale Campbell- Savours, 50, last night stood down from his job because of ill-health. Martyn Jones, MP for Clwyd SW, is to replace him.