Conservatives and Labour vow to spend big in battle for votes

LIVERPOOL/MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Britain’s governing Conservatives vowed on Thursday to spend billions on infrastructure, stepping up an election battle with the main opposition Labour Party over who is best placed to drive growth and help struggling regions.

The Labour party campaign bus is seen in Liverpool, Britain November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Noble

With Britons due to vote on Dec. 12, the main parties are drawing up battle lines: Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he alone can deliver Brexit, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says only his policies offer real change.

On Thursday, the focus turned to the economy. Shortly after finance minister Sajid Javid pledged to spend an extra 100 billion pounds on infrastructure over five years, his Labour rival John McDonnell upped the ante with a plan to spend around double that amount.

Early spending pledges from the two parties prompted a non-partisan think-tank, the Resolution Foundation, to declare on Monday that Britain appeared to be heading back to 1970s levels of state spending whoever wins.

Speaking in the northern English city of Manchester, Javid said voters faced a choice over who could be trusted to spend more to grow the economy without racking up debt.

“The difference between Labour and the Conservatives just couldn’t be bigger in this. We have a responsible plan that will allow us to have that decade of renewal,” he said, standing beneath a Concorde aeroplane in an aircraft hangar.

“Anything John McDonnell promises today, it doesn’t matter if it’s an extra pound, an extra 150 billion or an extra trillion, it just cannot be relied on. Before he spends any of that money, the economy will be ruined.”

The poll Johnson called to try to break parliamentary deadlock over Brexit is shaping up to be a contest between two parties more than willing to break with years of economic austerity imposed since the Conservatives took power in 2010.

 »