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."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little