John Woodcock: Time for Tory U-turn on cuts

David Cameron told the Daily Mail this week that he had made himself a promise to listen to the public and 'not to stick stubbornly to a course if it wasn't the right thing to do'. I don't think it was an attempt at black humour. The Prime Minister was talking about the wreckage of his NHS reforms, not the Government's blinkered refusal to change direction on the economy in the face of warnings that its cuts programme is going too far, too fast.

John Woodcock: Time for Tory U-turn on cuts
John Woodcock: Time for Tory U-turn on cuts

This is an administration gaining a reputation for flapping U-turns in a host of areas; the NHS carnage and abandoned plans for weekly bin collections this week have joined its failed attempts to privatise forests, sell off school sports fields and dilute prison sentences on a growing list of bungled policies. It remains to be seen how angry Conservatives react to Liberal Democrat colleagues trying to salvage their own political careers by gloating over the misfortune of a government they continue to prop up. But the real question is whether ministers are prepared to swallow their pride and get a plan B on the most important issue of all - the flagging economy. Borrowing is £46bn higher than the Tories had planned and the Government's independent watchdog says the economy will now grow more slowly, with 200,000 more people on the dole each year.

The fact that the Conservatives' deficit reduction plan is not working is bad news for families and businesses now, and it hampers Britain's longer term recovery. Labour hit the headlines for the wrong reasons last week. But stories about plots cannot get very far when there are no plotters to fuel them. The truth is that the Labour Party is more united now than for a long time. This is the first serious trouble for the Conservative-led Government - we need to step up and expose the risks it is taking with the country's finances.

That is what we are determined to do; getting behind Ed Miliband and Ed Balls as they press home the case on behalf of the British people. Nothing will distract us from that - certainly not a speech that was never made and a couple of wildly over-written stories about papers from a bygone era.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown

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