The rise in VAT is a damaging part of the Government’s “myth” that deep and fast cuts are needed to rescue the economy, Labour leader Ed Miliband has said.
Mr Miliband accepted he had more to do to get his message across to the public amid criticism that the first 100 days of his leadership have failed to inspire voters, but he insisted he had a clear message on the “big argument” over the scale and pace of cuts and angrily rejected as a “deceit” attempts to blame Labour for the state of the economy.
“They are trying to use a deceit about the past – by saying the real reason the deficit went up was because Labour overspent – to dictate the terms of the future,” he told BBC Radio 2.
“So, they are now saying the only priority for the British economy is to cut as far and as fast as we can. That is going to hit people’s living standards, including with VAT. They say it’s a price worth paying and I disagree with that.”
He went on: “It is not an inevitability; it is a political choice. No other country is cutting at the rate we are and that should give you a clue to the fact that this Government is not, as they claim, pursuing a centre-ground agenda.” A higher bank levy would be a better alternative to the VAT rise, he suggested.
Mr Miliband faced a series of criticisms from listeners to the Jeremy Vine Show – on his personal style and on the record of the previous administration of which he was part.
Replying to one Labour voter who urged him to show more “fight”, he said: “I always take advice. We will fight as hard as we can. We have to not just fight but to convince people.
“Of course there’s further to go for me to set out both what we need to do as a political party and who I am as a politician … and indeed as a person. I know that as a politician, as a person, I have a journey to go on and we as a party have a journey to go on. That comes over time.”
The Tories seized on the critical comments made by some callers, with MP Matthew Hancock saying: “Ed Miliband’s latest attempt at deficit denial fell apart by lunchtime. Radio listeners told him he is wrong on the deficit and needed to apologise for the mess that Labour left behind.
“The more Ed Miliband tries to deny his involvement in bringing Britain to the brink of bankruptcy and deny the need to deal with Britain’s debt, the more Labour’s economic credibility sinks.”