Labour’s perceived lack of credibility over the economy stems from Gordon Brown’s refusal to accept public spending cuts would be needed after the 2010 election, according to Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna.
Brown’s approach to the public spending debate contrasted with that of the Conservatives, who warned of economic catastrophe unless drastic action was taken to reduce the deficit and debt.
In an interview with GQ magazine, Umunna says Brown’s strategy is at the root of Labour’s troubles in convincing voters it can be trusted to balance the books.
He says: “My view is that the seeds were sown under the last government and Gordon [Brown] – for whom I have a lot of respect. His refusal to use the word ‘cuts’ in trying to frame the economic debate as investment versus cuts gave the impression we didn’t understand that debt and deficit would have to be dealt with.”
The gap between the Labour and Conservative strategies was put into even starker relief by the Coalition’s immediate decision to make £6.2bn of public spending cuts in the first year in government. Government MPs frequently said the cuts were necessary because Labour had “crashed the car” while they had been in power.
Umunna says: “I do think we need to talk more proudly about our record. We do need to explain and rebut this notion that we crashed the car. My main argument in my conference speech was that we did not crash the car. Labour left the country in a far better state and I say it all the time.”
Labour frequently trails the Conservatives in polls over who voters trust to run the economy. Last month, a poll by Lord Ashcroft found only two thirds of Labour voters back Ed Miliband and Ed Balls over the Conservatives, while one in four Labour voters put more trust in David Cameron to run the economy than Ed Miliband.