POLITICS

Ed Balls Rejects Reports Labour Has Decided To Outspend Tories As 'Wrong'

19/04/2013 10:26 BST | Updated 19/04/2013 10:39 BST
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Leader of Britain's opposition Labour party leader Ed Miliband (L) applauds Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls (R) after he delivered his speech on the second day of the annual Labour Party Conference in Manchester, north-west England, on October 1, 2012. The conference runs until October 4. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/GettyImages)

Ed Balls has rejected claims it is Labour policy to outspend the Conservatives after 2015, but refused to be drawn on whether it would be come the election.

The shadow chancellor told LBC radio during his first 'Call Balls' phone-in on Friday morning that The Independent's front page story was inaccurate. "It's an exclusive, but it's wrong," he said.

"It's not Labour Party policy, it's nothing I've even discussed," he said. "Is it the policy of Ed Miliband and me Ed Balls that we will decide now to bet the house with a pledge to outspend the Tories, no that is not our policy that is not our position."

However Balls said it would be "totally irresponsible" for him to set out Labour's spending plans for after 2015 given there was still two years to go until the general election.

He said the story was based on an upcoming report from the Fabian Society think-tank rather than Labour Party plans.

Asked who would have briefed the newspaper, he said: "Not anyone to do with me or Ed Miliband, that I know of."

In 1997 Tony Blair and Gordon Brown decided to match the spending plans of the previous Conservative government, convinced it would demonstrate economic credibility to voters.

However according to The Independent there is a "growing consensus inside the shadow cabinet" that Labour should avoid making the same pledge this time around.

The party would instead promise to reduce the deficit over a longer period of time and initially spend more than the Tories in order to invest in infrastructure projects to kick-start the country's faltering economy.

Despite being ahead in the polls, Miliband and Balls have been under pressure to set out their economic plan rather than just criticising the coalition.

In an article for the New Statesman earlier this month, Tony Blair warned Labour not to drift to the left and said Miliband needed to show "leadership" as well as develop a policy platform.

Voters, he said, needed to "know where we're coming from because that is a clue as to where we would go, if elected".

In a speech in Scotland today, Miliband will call today for a "new economic settlement" and for "new, credible, concrete answers to the new problems our country faces".

Tory MPs seized on The Independent story as proof labour had not "learned" from mistakes made while in power.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "Having nearly bust this country, Labour indicate they've learnt nothing and would do it all again!"

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said if the story was true it showed "Labour have learned nothing from its mistakes that got us into this mess and would do the same again".

On Thursday the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde, said George Osborne needed to rethink his austerity strategy due to to the poor performance of the UK economy.