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Labour Won’t Stick to Conservative Spending Plans, Ed Miliband Confirms

The former party leader told Byline Times that Labour will not ‘not sign up’ to Conservative budgets if the party wins the next general election – a contrast to 1997

Labour leader Keir Starmer and Shadow Secretary Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary, Ed Miliband. Photo: PA/Alamy

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The most senior Labour figure yet has confirmed that the party will not follow Conservative spending plans if elected later this year.

Speaking to Byline Times, Shadow Climate Change and Net Zero Secretary – and former Labour Leader – Ed Miliband addressed concerns that the party might not promise enough to inspire voters, claiming that its plans are both realistic and necessary.

It comes as Labour faces criticism from some on the left of its new ‘Six Steps’ plan, launched on Thursday, which focuses on “economic stability” over, for example, investment in infrastructure and growth. 

At the campaign launch in Barnet, north London, Miliband refuted this – outlining Labour’s commitment to providing 40,000 additional NHS appointments per week and 6,500 more teachers, aimed at reversing current crises in those sectors. 

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The Doncaster MP rebutted the idea Labour might ‘under-promise’ and fail to inspire people, saying: “No, because I think that what we’re offering is absolutely where people are… If we think about what’s happening in our schools, and kids being taught in crumbling school buildings with a lack of teachers, we’re going to start to turn that around. 

“But the reason I say start to turn that round, is I think if we tell people that this can all be done overnight, people will say ‘we don’t believe you’, and they’d be right not to believe us. What we’re actually saying is ‘this will take time’. But we’re not saying that because we’re not going to change things.”

He added that the party was “being realistic” but “also promising real change”. 

And he pointed to plans for more police, teachers and nurses, saying: “All of these things are real, they’re concrete, they’re costed, and they will make a difference to people’s lives.”

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Miliband also became the most senior Labour figure so far to confirm that Labour would not adopt Conservative spending plans if elected.

“We have got different spending plans to the Conservative Party,” he told Byline Times. “Take what we’re doing on teachers, that’s extra investment. And then [take] education… or £8 billion pounds that we’re investing in GB energy from the windfall tax. 

“We have different choices, different priorities.” 

Pressed on whether the party would refuse to sign up to Conservative spending plans, he added: “We’re not signing up to their plans. We’ve got our plan.”

In 1997, Labour committed to stick to existing Conservative Party spending plans for the first two years, to suggest to voters that it could be trusted on economic spending. 

Miliband also claimed that Labour’s proposals on public services and green projects are “fully funded” and not reliant on high economic growth.

Labour says that increased teacher numbers would be funded by VAT on private school fees, and the new public energy company, GB Energy, would be financed through a windfall tax on large oil and gas companies. NHS improvements would come from closing non-dom tax loopholes.

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Miliband contrasted Labour’s funding strategies with what he described as the Conservative Party’s “unfunded commitments,” such as the proposed £46 billion National Insurance abolition which the Government says it wants to happen “when conditions allow”. Miliband said: “We are absolutely clear how it’s being paid for.”

But mirroring the Conservative Party’s line on Rishi Sunak’s stated aim to abolish National Insurance, Miliband added that Labour’s aims to allocate 2.5% of GDP to defence will come only when it’s financially feasible: “We are only going to promise what we can absolutely deliver.”

Responding to Labour’s Six Steps, a spokesperson for left-wing Labour group Momentum said: “Britain has big problems, and they require big solutions. Sadly, these fixes fall desperately short of the bold policies needed to fix the Tories’ broken Britain, from mass building council housing to renationalising our public services. Worse still, Starmer is failing to break with the Conservatives’ disastrous austerity dogma.

“Faced with similarly huge challenges in 1945, the post-war Labour Government brought sweeping change and investment to a country on its knees. Britain needs a real Labour alternative today, too.”


If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

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Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

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