Tories Say Labour Spending Plans Total $1.5 Trillion: U.K. Votes

(Bloomberg) --

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives sought to undermine the Labour Party’s credibility on the economy, saying the opposition’s spending plans would cost 1.2 trillion pounds ($1.5 trillion) over five years. The analysis by the governing party -- branded a “ludicrous piece of Tory fake news” by Labour’s finance spokesman, John McDonnell -- was carried on the front covers of the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday.

Key Developments:

  • Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid tells Sunday Times that Labour’s plans would leave U.K. on “the brink of bankruptcy”
  • McDonnell promises Labour’s manifesto will be fully costed
  • YouGov poll in Sunday Times puts Tories 13 points ahead of Labour; Opinium poll gives them a 12-point lead

Javid Promises ‘Controlled’ Spending (10:10 a.m.)

A Conservative government would ensure spending levels are “controlled,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said, contrasting it with what he termed “reckless” expenditure by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

“We’re going to be very clear about how we spend and borrow and it’s always going to be controlled,” Javid said on Sunday in a BBC News interview. He declined to say what taxation policies his party would pursue, saying he would outline it later in the campaign. “I believe in low taxes; I believe people should keep more of their own money.”

Javid said his party’s calculation that Labour’s plans would cost the country 1.2 trillion pounds was based mainly on Labour’s own numbers, with other sums carried out in a “reasonable” way. Like Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng earlier (see 8:40 a.m.), Javid declined to provide an equivalent figure for his own Conservative Party.

Pressed to reveal the cost of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on the British economy, he declined to provide a figure, but also rejected year-old government forecasts that a similar plan would add 72 billion pounds to government borrowing. “That’s not right,” he said.

Greens Say Electoral Pact Could Make Difference (9:50 a.m.)

The Green Party’s only Member of Parliament, Caroline Lucas, said the electoral pact her party has reached with the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru could be influential in the next Parliament. She said the deal, which saw candidates from two of the pro-European parties stand aside in 60 seats nationwide, was necessary because of the U.K.’s “undemocratic” first-past-the-post electoral system.

“The evidence suggests that we may well be heading again for a hung parliament, in which case even just a handful of seats can make a difference,” she said. “We have a horrible undemocratic unfair electoral system that means we have to try to game the system in that way.”

Labour Manifesto Costs Not Finalized (9:30 a.m.)

Labour hasn’t yet totaled up the final cost of its policy program, the opposition party’s campaign chief, Andrew Gwynne, told the BBC on Sunday. But he pushed back against Tory calculations that Labour policies will cost 1.2 trillion pounds, calling it “an absolute work of fiction.”

Gwynne and Labour’s Defence Spokeswoman Nia Griffith, who spoke to Sky News, both repeated McDonnell’s pledge that the manifesto when published will be fully costed. It’ll be finalized next Saturday, Gwynne said. “There will be open transparency from the Labour Party.”

It’s something Labour also did in the 2017 general election – and the Tories didn’t.

Labour Committed to Keeping Nuclear Deterrent (9:10 a.m.)

Shadow Defence Secretary Nia Griffith told Sky News that the Labour Party is “absolutely committed” to keeping the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent. “It’s a very, very important part of our defense, particularly when we’re seeing a resurgent Russia, and we’re seeing the U.S. perhaps being a little bit lukewarm about NATO,” Griffith said. She didn’t comment on when exactly Labour would use it, though emphasized that Corbyn “fully understands what deterrents mean.”

Earlier, the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford suggested that Labour’s support for nuclear weapons could be a factor in any negotiations for the SNP to prop up a Labour government in the event of a hung parliament, though he declined to give a yes or no answer on whether it was a red line.

“To waste up to 200 billion pounds on these weapons of mass destruction that can never be used is a fallacy,” Blackford told Sky News. “These nuclear weapons are not the answer to the needs of defense and security of the United Kingdom.”

Business Minister Slams Labour’s Spending Plans (8:40 a.m.)

Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng slammed the Labour Party’s spending plans, accusing it of “promising the earth.” He confirmed that Tory analysis of the main opposition’s policies -- including a four-day working week and nationalization of energy infrastructure and water utilities -- show they’ll add up to 1.2 trillion pounds.

“All those things are going to have to be paid for, and Labour’s policies don’t add up,” Kwarteng said in a Sky News interview. “We’ve shown that they are reckless in their spending. It’s a huge amount of money that we can’t afford.”

Challenged repeatedly on what the equivalent total is for the Conservative Party, he was unable to say. He said that the government gave details in its budget, and that Tory spending plans “are not nearly as astronomical” as Labour ones.

Kwarteng also urged Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage to “step aside” now that Boris Johnson has negotiated a deal to take the U.K. out of the European Union.

Labour to ‘Bankrupt U.K.,’ Javid Tells Papers (Earlier)

Labour spending plans will cost the country 1.2 trillion pounds over the next five years, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing a 36-page dossier prepared by the Conservative Party. The story was also carried in the Sunday Times, which cited Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid as saying the plans are a “truly terrifying spending splurge” which would leave the U.K. “on the brink of bankruptcy.”

McDonnell, for his part, issued a statement dismissing the dossier as “Tory fake news,” and promising his party’s manifesto would be “fully costed.”

“This ludicrous piece of Tory fake news is an incompetent mishmash of debunked estimates and bad maths cooked up because they know Labour’s plans for real change are popular,” McDonnell said. “Labour will tax the rich to pay for things everyone needs and deserves, like decent housing, health care 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.”

Polls Give Conservatives Double-Digit Lead (Earlier)

Three polls give Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a double-digit lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times puts the Tories on 39%, unchanged from its previous survey, with Labour down a point on 26%. The Liberal Democrats are up a point on 17% and the Brexit Party are up 3 points on 10%.

Late Saturday, Opinium released the results of its latest poll, giving the Tories a 12-point lead. That margin was down four points from its previous survey last week. Opinium put the Conservatives on 41%, Labour on 29%, the Lib Dems on 15% and the Brexit Party on 6%. A survey by Deltapoll for the Mail on Sunday had the same numbers for the Tories and Labour, with the Liberal Democrats at 16%. The Brexit Party lost 5 percentage points from the previous poll to 6%.

One poll, however, gave a smaller lead for the Tories. The BMG survey for the Independent on Sunday put the Tories on 37%, with Labour on 29%, the Liberal Democrats on 16% and the Brexit Party on 9%.

Secret Report Named Russian Tory Donors: Times (Earlier)

Nine Russian donors to the Conservative Party are identified in a report from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee that the government last week refused to release, the Sunday Times reported.

Bloomberg last week revealed that the report raised concerns over the threat of Russian interference in British elections but found no “smoking gun” evidence of Kremlin-sponsored meddling.

A row over the government’s refusal to publish the report dominated Parliament’s final day before the body was dissolved for the Dec. 12 election. The government insists that it needs more time to ensure that secret sources of information aren’t inadvertently revealed. People familiar with the report are equally insistent this work has already been done.


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