Coalition cuts are political, says Johnson

ALAN Johnson, the new shadow chancellor, yesterday dismissed claims the spending review was fair and tried to portray the coalition as ideologically-driven cutters who would squeeze the middle classes.

He rounded on the coalition for “cheering the deepest cuts in public expenditure that have taken place in living memory” and warned that “spreadsheets and numbers” would translate into hundreds of thousands of job losses.

The spending review represented a “reckless gamble with people’s livelihoods which runs the risk of stifling the fragile recovery,” Johnson claimed.

In his first major appearance at the despatch box since becoming shadow chancellor, Johnson gave a more confident performance than many MPs expected.

However, his attacks were stymied by George Osborne’s insistence he was cutting departmental spending by just 19 per cent, against Labour’s planned cuts of 20 per cent, largely due to big reductions in the welfare bill.

Johnson dismissed these claims, insisting Labour would cut public spending by about half the amount the coalition is planning.

Johnson taunted the chancellor for rattling off a list of international bodies who supported his austerity measures, such as the European Central Bank, the IMF and the OECD.

The Irish finance minister had also boasted about getting backing for his cuts from these bodies, Johnson claimed – just four months before the country fell back into recession.

The shadow chancellor also said claims Labour had been profligate in the boom years were hypocritical, pointing out the Tories had backed their tax and spending plans until well after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

And he continued to attack the Tories for axing child benefit for high earners, insisting that middle class families would end up paying more towards deficit reduction than banks. Both the child benefit cut and banking levy are worth about £2.5bn to the exchequer.