Britain's opposition sets out economic alternative

26th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's opposition Labour laid out Monday their alternative to the government's plan to deal with the economic crisis as the party seeks to re-establish its credentials with voters.

Labour finance spokesman Ed Balls admitted Labour could not promise to reverse any of the deep spending cuts imposed by the coalition government in a bid to bring Britain's record deficit into balance.

"We will never have credibility unless we have the discipline and the strength to take tough decisions," Balls told delegates at the party's annual conference in Liverpool, northwest England.

"No matter how much we dislike particular Tory spending cuts or tax rises, we cannot make promises now to reverse them."

Since being kicked out of office in last year's general election and replaced by Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, the centre-left party has struggled to find a distinctive voice on the economy.

"Before the next election -- and based on the circumstances we face -- we will set out for our manifesto tough fiscal rules that the next Labour government will have to stick to, to get our country's current budget back to balance and national debt on a downward path," Balls said.

"Yes, a credible economic policy does needs a plan to get the deficit down. Yes, a credible economic policy needs political agreement to implement that plan.

"But an economic policy can only be credible if it works.

"And (finance minister) George Osborne's economic plan is hurting but it's just not working."

Balls also laid out a five-point plan for reviving Britain's sluggish growth rate.

He attacked the government's claims that their measures had made Britain "a safe haven" from the economic storms in the eurozone and the United States.

He said Britain's economy faced a "global growth crisis" which was becoming "more dangerous by the day".

Balls said Britain was threatened with "a lost decade of economic stagnation" if growth was not revived.

He admitted Labour had made mistakes during their 13 years in power under prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, notably in not being tough enough on regulating the banking system.

His new five-point plan includes the reintroduction of a tax on bankers' bonuses; bringing forward long-term infrastructure investment projects; and a temporary reverse to the value-added tax rise from 17.5 percent to 20 percent.

© 2011 AFP

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