Senior Labour figures have looked uncomfortable during this campaign when speaking of their own party’s policy on balancing the books – the day-to-day spending books, that is. But this afternoon Chris Leslie gave an endorsement of the pledge that is as clear and enthusiastic as voters are likely to get.
Challenged by Andrew Neil on today’s Daily Politics debate on the economy, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury said he made ‘no apologies’ for his party’s focus on clearing the current budget deficit, rather than the overall deficit. Leslie said:
‘The distinction is this…having a balance on the current budget is not the limit of our ambitions. We believe that we could get a surplus even on our current budget, and of course that would help with the capital question.
But I’m not going to make any apologies for making a distinction between day-to-day spending, which is the one the markets and others are concerned about, and productive public investment, because capital is very important and that we get the infrastructure improved in our economy.
It is not the limit of our ambitions to have the current budget solely into balance. I hope that we will move into surplus and we can get the national debt falling as a percentage of GDP within this next coming parliament. That is our commitment, cast-iron, on the front page of our manifesto.’