The spotlight is shifting from the Liberal Democrats to Labour ahead of the party’s conference. But I suspect that at least one theme from Brighton will be carried on to Manchester: what to do about the coming spending review.
In The Spectator this week, Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman makes clear that she is adamantly opposed to Labour repeating Gordon Brown’s 1997 trick of promising to match, at least initially, Tory spending plans:
‘Our argument against the Tories is that the scale and pace of their deficit reduction is self-defeating and hurting the economy and therefore making less money available. So we have got a fundamental economic critique — we would not be signing up to doing the very thing we think is hurting the economy.’
In Labour circles, this declaration is being seen as a shot across Ed Balls’ bows. Those close to him have been briefing that matching Tory spending plans for the initial part of the parliament would be a way to neutralise the attack line that the party are spendaholics.