GEORGE Osborne will today launch a scathing attack on Labour’s approach to the deficit, insisting that a slower pace of spending cuts would lead to a credit downgrade, higher interest rates and turmoil in financial markets.
The chancellor will use his speech to the Tory conference in Birmingham to round on Labour’s new leader Ed Miliband, who has said that plans to cut public spending by an average of 25 per cent by 2014-15 could tip Britain back into recession.
“Imagine, if I were to stand up in the House of Commons in two weeks time and say: I’m cancelling the deficit plan. I agree with Ed Miliband. Let’s delay the tough decisions. Let’s borrow more. Let’s go on adding to our debt,” Osborne is expected to say.
“Imagine what would follow. The market turmoil. The flight of investors. The dismay of business. The loss of confidence. The credit downgrade. The sharp rise in market interest rates. The extra debt interest. The lost jobs. The cancelled investment. The businesses destroyed. The recovery halted. The return of crippling economic instability.”
Osborne will claim that Miliband and the trade unions, who have also called for a more leisurely pace of spending cuts, are increasingly isolated in the debate over Britain’s £109bn structural deficit
He is expected to reel off a long list of those who have backed his plan for deep cuts, including the IMF, the OECD, credit rating agencies, the European Commission, the CBI, and Bank of England governor Mervyn King.
Osborne will also confirm the government’s intention to “rebalance” the economy, so it is less reliant on the financial services sector and the City. Britain cannot create “prosperity for all... by hitching the country’s entire fortunes again to the City of London,” he will say.
Osborne’s decision to focus on the need for swingeing public spending cuts is seen as risky by some party strategists, who fear the government is failing to outline an optimistic vision for the economy.
Sources close to Ed Miliband last night said his approach to the deficit was “near identical” to David Miliband’s, and accused the chancellor of “resorting to the politics of scaremongering and pessimism”.
But an aide to Osborne told City A.M.: “This isn’t about optimism or pessimism, it’s about living in the real work. George is tackling the economic arguments head-on”.