Row erupts as Tories accuse Labour of wanting to spend £1 trillion more over next five years

Posted On: 
10th November 2019

A furious row has erupted after the Conservatives put a £1.2 trillion price tag on a Labour government.

Labour's John McDonnell took aim at Chancellor Sajid Javid over the figures.
Credit: 
PA

A report compiled by the Tories - based on commitments made at Labour's annual conference - said the party would leave the UK "on the brink of bankruptcy".

But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell immediately branded it an "incompetent mish-mash of debunked estimates and bad maths".

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The 35-page report comes before Labour has unveiled its election manifesto and is based on analysis of its conference pledges and 2017 manifesto.

Chancellor Sajid Javid said Labour's spending plans would rack up an extra £650m a day over and above current public spending levels - and herald a 30% overall increase in government spending.

"The true cost of Corbyn is a staggering £1.2 trillion," he said.

"Now is the time for responsible investment not reckless borrowing. We simply cannot afford Corbyn's spending spree that would saddle our children with huge amounts of debt and undo all the hard work of the British people in recent years.

"Every time Labour get into power they spend beyond their means, leaving our country on the brink of bankruptcy."

The Cabinet minister added: "We simply cannot afford the cost of Corbyn."

The Tory dossier said Labour's 2017 manifesto would cost £600bn, with fresh pledges - which Labour has yet to decide if it will include in its final 2019 election programme - set to cost a further £590bn "on top of what the government already spends".

That includes promises to renationalise rail, energy, water and postal services, improve the heating of most UK homes and roll out free bus travel to the under-25s.

But Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell hit back angrily at the report, and urged the Tories to wait for Labour's "fully costed" manifesto. 

He said: "This ludicrous piece of Tory fake news is an incompetent mish-mash of debunked estimates and bad maths cooked up because they know Labour’s plans for real change are popular.

"Labour will tax the rich to pay for things everyone needs and deserves, like decent housing, healthcare and support for our children. We will also use the power of the state to invest to grow our economy, create good jobs in every region and nation and tackle the climate emergency.

"The Conservatives will be able to read all about these plans – and how much they actually cost – when we publish our fully costed manifesto."

'INVEST IN OUR FUTURE'

The bitter row over the document came after Britain's top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill stepped in to stop ministers publishing costings of Labour plans that would have been produced by impartial civil servants in the Treasury.

Instead, the latest dossier has been published by the Conservatives - with the party insisting they are based on internal research and so do not contravene the Cabinet Secretary's order not to use government resources for the job.

Mr Javid last week ripped up the Government's rules for keeping borrowing down as he vowed to spend an extra £20bn a year on public services if the Conservatives win the election.

Under the current fiscal rules established by Mr Javid's predecessor, Philip Hammond, the Government aims to keep borrowing below 2% of national income.

But Mr Javid said that he wanted to take advantage of low interest rates to increase that figure to to 3%, freeing up billions more to spend on infrastructure projects like new hospitals, schools, roads and railways.

He said: "I’m announcing new fiscal rules that if elected will allow us to take advantage of the opportunity to invest in our future and our public services but without squandering the hard work of the British people."

The row came as the latest YouGov poll for The Sunday Times saw the Conservatives steady on 39% - the same figure as last week - despite seven turbulent days that have seen a Cabinet minister quit and a major row over Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments on the Grenfell Tower fire.

Labour has dropped one point to 26%, while the Liberal Democrats have risen by one point to 17%. The Brexit Party has meanwhile put on three points to 10% in the YouGov study.

A separate Opinium survey saw the Tories on 41%, down a point on last week, while Labour has gained three points to 29%.