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  1. Politics
1 December 2014updated 24 Jul 2021 2:04am

Ed Miliband: the government’s economic failure has cost every taxpayer £4,000

The Labour leader today will announce new figures condemning the coalition's failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

By Anoosh Chakelian

Two days ahead of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, Ed Miliband will announce new figures condemning what he sees as the government’s failure to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

Speaking at a Q+A event in Nottingham today, the Labour leader will use new research from the House of Commons Library to highlight how unbalanced the so-called economic recovery has been in this parliament.

He will say that the government’s failure to tackle the “cost-of-living crisis”, one of the few slogans the Labour party continues to use with some effect, has cost £116.5bn, highlighting that this has led to borrowing going up and the deficit taking longer to bring down than promised.

Miliband will illustrate this by saying this is the equivalent of costing every taxpayer £4,000.

He is expected to say:

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For all the Government’s boasts about a belated economic recovery, there are millions of families still caught in the most prolonged cost-of-living crisis for a century.  For them this is a joy-less and pay-less recovery.

My priority as Prime Minister will be tackling that cost-of-living crisis so that hard work is properly rewarded again, so that our children can dream of a better future, so that our public services including the NHS are safe.

Building a recovery that works for everyday people is the real test of the Autumn Statement.

But that isn’t a different priority to tackling the deficit. Building a recovery that works for most people is an essential part of balancing the books.

The Government’s failure to build a recovery that works for every-day people and tackle the cost-of-living crisis isn’t just bad for every person affected, it also hampers our ability to pay down the deficit.

Britain’s public finances have been weakened by a Tory-led Government overseeing stagnant wages which keep tax revenues low.

Britain’s public finances have been weakened by Tory policies which focus on low paid, low skilled, insecure jobs – often part-time or temporary – because they do not raise as much revenue as the high skill, high wage opportunities we need to be creating.

And our public finances have been weakened by higher social security bills to subsidise low paid jobs and the chronic shortage of homes.   

The result has been David Cameron and George Osborne missing every single target they set themselves on clearing the deficit and balancing the books by the end of this parliament.

There are two notable political points at play here.

First is Miliband’s hammering of Tory economic incompetence. Labour continues to lag behind the Tories in the polls of who voters most trust with fixing the economy, and so Miliband is attempting to hit the Conservatives where it hurts: on their territory. It will take a great deal to win the public round to trusting Labour to take the country in a more prosperous direction, but the facts are rather stark, and do play to Labour’s advantage:

 – Income tax receipts have fallen short of forecasts by more than £66bn

 – National Insurance contributions are £25.5bn lower than expected

 – Spending on social security is £25bn higher than planned

Borrowing is going up, and the deficit remains stubborn.

The second political point is one about a balanced recovery: “This government has done a great job of squeezing the middle, but a bad job of squeezing the deficit”, will be one of Miliband’s key lines. There is an appeal to the middle classes here that suggests Labour is broadening its message about helping the “many” rather than the “few” in the recovery to middle-class households as well as working-class households.

Culturally, it is tricky for Labour to know where to pitch its rhetoric on this kind of thing, shown by its recent bout of apparently tearing itself apart over who in society the party stands for anymore. The supposed metropolitan elitist sneer of one of its former shadow ministers, Emily Thornberry, clearly touched this nerve. So it is telling that the party is keen to return to the “squeezed middle” narrative.

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