Labour shadow minister warns of Tory ‘trap’

By Alex Stevenson

Labour under Ed Miliband is falling into a Conservative electoral "trap", an opposition frontbencher has warned.

Shadow pensions minister Gregg McClymont warned that the opposition's determined defence of public spending risked defeat at the next general election in a pamphlet for the Policy Network thinktank.

He and co-author Ben Jackson, an Oxford University lecturer, instead called on Mr Miliband to adopt a "patriotic, national growth appeal" which does not simply focus on "a simple defence of the public sector and public spending".

Previous economic downturns have seen the public repeatedly prefer the Tories to Labour, because the right have repeatedly been able to label Labour as the 'tax and spend' party.

That criticism is likely to be repeated at the next general election as the Conservatives claim Labour's kneejerk response to economic difficulty is to ramp up public spending – as was their response to the financial crisis of 2008.

Only by putting forward a more convincing growth strategy, including a wider active industrial policy, can Labour evade this trap, the pair argued.

"Labour is more comfortable than the Conservatives with the idea of an activist state: the Conservatives have reason to fear a political contest organised around which party can best promote growth rather than which party can best reduce spending," Mr McClymont wrote.

He and Mr Jackson called on Mr Miliband to emulate the approach which led to Labour election victories in 1945, 1964 and 1997, all of which, they pointed out, involved attacks on a Tory party which had presided over a period of economic decay.

"1964, with its focus on economic underperformance and relative decline, presided over by an out of touch Tory elite, is particularly resonant given the likely electoral battleground in 2015," the pair concluded.

"A patriotic, national growth appeal is therefore essential to highlighting the inadequacy of Conservative political economy."