John McDonnell refuses to answer eight times when asked about Labour debt costs

Posted On: 
23rd November 2017

John McDonnell has come under attack after he refused to say how much the Government's debt interest payments would be under Labour, despite being asked eight times in one interview.

John McDonnell John McDonnell appeared tetchy on the radio.
PA Images

The Shadow Chancellor accused journalist Mishal Husain of "a trite form of journalism" when he was repeatedly probed on Radio Four's Today programme.

And he suggested Labour's critics should check their iPads if they want to know the cost of the party's policies.

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Labour has said it will borrow £250bn over 10 years to invest in capital projects - but the Conservatives have claimed that it could be as much as £500bn.

Asked how much servicing that extra debt would cost, McDonnell said: "The type of journalism where you go into an interview and someone asks a question on a particular figure, to be honest, is a trite form of journalism. 

"That’s why we have iPads and that’s why we have advisers et cetera.

"So let’s get back to the reality of this. What I’ve been saying consistently about this Budget… if the Government stop the tax cuts to the corporations and the rich, they would have been able to invest in our public services."

When pressed repeatedly on the cost of his own policies, the Shadow Chancellor failed to say a precise figure, but insisted the extra borrowing would "pay for itself".

"It's minimal because the interest rate is so low," he said.

"We're talking about it paying for itself - a one-to-one multiplier. That’s the standard analysis by the OBR and others. When you invest what you do you (is) grow the economy."

Steve Barclay, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Labour refuse to come clean on how much taxpayers would have to pay for their borrowing binge.

"Labour would add hundreds of billions more to the country’s debt, meaning higher taxes on workers and less money for our schools and hospitals."

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: "It's worrying that the Shadow Chancellor hasn't done his sums. Or perhaps he has done his sums and he realises they're so horrendous that he's unwilling to acknowledge that his version of a Labour government would put the country into financial difficulties."