Poor economy a drag on Labour fortunes

Miliband under pressure to rethink his deficit strategy as a new poll shows his party is stuck

Ed Miliband is under pressure to fine-tune Labour's stance on the economy amid growing evidence that the party is failing to win the political argument over cutting the deficit.

Several Labour frontbenchers believe the party must urgently come up with an answer to the criticism by David Cameron and George Osborne that Labour's recipe for Britain's debt crisis is to borrow even more. "It is doing us a lot of damage," said one frontbencher. Another said: "We need a rethink. We are in the wrong place on the economy."

The concern amongst Labour MPs will be heightened by the latest poll of polls by The Independent showing that the party has gained no ground despite a month of gloomy economic statistics that have called the Coalition's cuts strategy into question.

Labour remains on 39 per cent (unchanged from the previous month), the Conservatives on 35 per cent (unchanged) and the Liberal Democrats on 11 per cent (down a point). Although these figures would give Labour an overall majority of 38, that would be reduced by proposed changes to constituency boundaries. And more worryingly for Labour, the party trails the Tories on economic competence.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who calculated the weighted average of last month's polls, said: "Labour's failure to make any further advance during the course of 2011 must be a source of growing concern to the party. As the economic news has worsened... doubts about the Government's handling of the nation's finances have grown.

"Yet the public doubt whether Labour would do any better – and indeed are still inclined to hold the party responsible for much the austerity that the country is now experiencing. Unless Labour can restore its reputation for economic competence, then however bad the economic news might be for the Government, it seems unlikely the party will be able to secure the kind of lead that would suggest it was on course for victory in 2015. That probably implies spelling out a much clearer alternative to the Government's economic strategy than the party has so far been able to present, and in so doing begin to convince the public that it has learnt from the mistakes made during its previous tenure in office."

Allies of Mr Miliband insist that Labour is united in agreement that its message needed to change following last week's gloomy Autumn Statement by the Chancellor. But they insisted the party's policy would not – and that it still supported a short-term fiscal stimulus to ensure the growth needed to cut the deficit.

Mr Miliband's aides suggested that Labour will say more about the long-term challenge to eliminate the deficit and build a "new economy" and less about its immediate plans including a temporary cut in VAT to combat the "caricature" of its policies painted by the Tories.

Labour now knew it would inherit a deficit if it wins the next election and would have to make cuts, they said. So the party will spell out the "hard choices" facing it on spending and taxation.

Labour sources insisted that the party's economic ratings are improving and claimed the Coalition would not be able to continue to blame Britain's problems on the previous Labour administration. They said it normally took about 18 months for voters to see a new government as "taking ownership" of the economy, so the passage of time would dilute the potency of the Coalition's attacks on Labour.

Mr Osborne mocked Labour's stance, claiming that the only other European parties that wanted to slow the pace of deficit reduction were Communists and the French Workers' Struggle Party.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
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

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories