Shadow Chancellor lambasts the Coalition's 'deficit deceivers'

Alan Johnson condemns the cuts as an ideologically driven assault on the state and based on a series of economic myths

Alan Johnson denounced the huge cuts in public spending unveiled yesterday as an ideologically driven assault on the state that was taking a "reckless gamble with people's livelihoods". In his first major Commons test since being made shadow Chancellor, Mr Johnson said the £81bn programme of cuts was too severe and risked stifling Britain's weak economic recovery just as it was beginning.

While he admitted that spending cuts had to be made to reduce the budget deficit, he accused the Chancellor, George Osborne, of introducing "the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory". He said many Conservative backbenchers relished the prospect of shrinking the welfare state.

Mr Johnson, who was a surprise choice to replace Alistair Darling, has already said he would stick to his predecessor's plan to reduce the deficit at a slower rate to that instituted by the Coalition Government yesterday. He did not use the opportunity to unveil an alternative cuts programme, but said the size and speed of Mr Osborne's spending review was unnecessary.

"We have seen people cheering the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory," he said. "For some members opposite, this is their ideological objective. Not all of them, but for many of them, this is what they came in politics for."

He labelled some members of the Coalition Government "deficit deceivers" – a riposte to the Tory claim that Labour ministers were "deficit deniers" because of their plan only to halve the deficit over four years. Mr Johnson said the Government had "peddled a whole series of myths to the British public" about the state of the economy.

"The most incredible myth of all is that the [largest] global economic crisis since the Great Depression is the fault of the previous government," he said, adding that Britain's debt was the second lowest among the G7 group of wealthy nations when the financial problems hit.

"If countries around the world hadn't run up debts to sustain their economies, people would have not lost their credit cards – they'd have lost their jobs; they'd have lost their houses; they would have lost their savings," he said.

Mr Osborne had attempted to wrong-foot Labour by saying his 19 per cent overall departmental cuts were less than the 20 per cent advocated by Labour earlier this year. Mr Johnson dismissed the claim as "nonsense", adding that Labour would have insisted on budget cuts of around half the level of those announced yesterday.

He warned that the 500,000 job losses in the public sector by 2014 would have a similar impact on the private sector, adding that there was an alternative. He also criticised the £7bn raid on welfare payments.

"At the same time as you are throwing people out of work, the Government is reducing the support to help people return to the workplace," Mr Johnson said. "With the proposals today you have actually made it harder for people to return to work."

Mr Johnson also attacked Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Liberal Democrats for the way in which they had embraced huge spending cuts, saying that they had gone into the election campaign arguing that fast and deep reductions in public spending were not needed.

"In the period between the ballot box closing and his ministerial car door opening, the Deputy Prime Minister discovered a different approach," Mr Johnson said.

"It's our firm belief that the rush to cut the deficit endangers the recovery and reduces the prospects for employment in the short term and for prosperity in the longer term. We believe we can and should sustain a more gradual reduction, securing growth."

In a sign that Labour will attempt to win back the support of middle-income voters who deserted the party in swathes at the last election, Mr Johnson said the budget cuts would see the "middle squeezed even further".

As the impact of the changes to welfare became clearer last night, Labour used the huge benefits cuts to underline their effect on women and the poorest.

"Once again, the Government is hitting women much harder than men, and families with children hardest of all," said Yvette Cooper, the shadow Equalities minister. "Women are harder hit by the cuts in pension credit, working tax credit, childcare support and the cuts in public-sector jobs.

"Cutting jobs for women and help for women to work is crazy – it is bad for the economy, increases child poverty and will end up costing us more. It also makes it much harder for parents to balance work and family life and shows the Government really doesn't get the pressures working families face."

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
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • 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: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions