As Jim Murphy tries to turn back the SNP surge, he has been arguing that a Labour government wouldn’t result in endless austerity. He has repeatedly cited the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ finding that Labour couldn’t meet its deficit reduction target with no cuts at all after 2015-16.
Now, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have today been clear that Labour will bring in cuts post 2016. But they have avoided contradicting Murphy by name. Chuka Umunna, however, showed no such restraint earlier today. Under questioning from Andrew Neil, he declared:
‘The leader of the Scottish Labour party will not be in charge of the UK Budget.’
This comment was so forceful that it made me wonder if Labour are beginning to write Scotland off; the latest poll from there has the SNP on 52 per cent. But a senior Labour source assures me that this is not the case.
However, the SNP has already seized on Umunna’s comments, saying that it proves that if you vote Labour, you’ll get more austerity. I suspect that whenever Jim Murphy speaks from now on, the SNP will chuck Umunna’s line setting out his position in the pecking order straight back at him.