Did Labour over-spend?

Ed Miliband

Members of the Question Time audience became conspicuously grumpy when Ed Miliband said the last Labour government did not over-spend.

So who was right - them or the Labour leader?

Well, they both have a point.

There was a gap between what Labour was spending and what it was receiving in tax revenues in the few years before the great crash and recession of 2008.

But that gap was not massive: sometimes it was a tiny bit bigger than the growth rate of the economy, sometimes a bit smaller; which means there was no significant increase in the ratio of public sector debt to national income or GDP.

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Should Tories put the chancellor in straitjacket?

  • 29 April 2015
  • From the section Business
George Osborne and David Cameron

In most British people's minds, the Great Crash and Recession of 2008 probably feels like yesterday - the defining economic shock of our age, we continue to live with its noxious effects.

But the Tories and Labour are today behaving as if the risk of another such shock in the current parliament is nil, because in different ways they've both limited their room to offset the impact of one.

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Little growth without shoppers

  • 28 April 2015
  • From the section Business
restaurant
The services sector, which includes restaurants, has underpinned economic growth in the UK this year

So before any of you get too gloomy, the recovery is not over.

GDP, or national income, increased at an annual rate of 2.4% in the first three months of the year, which looks pretty good by international standards - and is only a touch slower than the 2.5% forecast for this year made in the Budget by the government's official forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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The huge choice for voters

  • 23 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Polling station

The economic choice confronting voters is the starkest since 1992. That is the assessment of the Institute for Fiscal Studies of the main parties' deficit reduction plans.

The best way of seeing this choice is that, if the Tories and Labour deliver their plans, the national debt by 2020 would be £90bn lower in today's money under the Conservatives, but cuts to so-called unprotected government departments would be just £1bn under Labour compared with £30bn under the Tories.

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Why SNP matters to whole of UK

  • 20 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond campaigning

John Swinney, the SNP's deputy First Minister of Scotland, told the Today programme this morning that the heart of its manifesto - due out later today - would be to end austerity in the UK as a whole, and would support Labour to bring that about.

This may sound great for Labour and Ed Miliband. But it is in fact pretty much his worst nightmare.

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Why aren't UK pay rises delivering votes to Cameron?

  • 17 April 2015
  • From the section Business
David Cameron

David Cameron may look at today's stats on unemployment and wonder why on earth his party is only neck and neck with Labour in the opinion polls, and not benefiting from record employment levels and a significant rise in inflation-adjusted pay (before tax and benefits).

Probably the most interesting stat for me was that regular pay - excluding bonuses - saw a 2.2% increase in February and a 1.8% rise in the three months to Feb. And for the first time since serious records began, that headline rise is the real rise - because CPI inflation is 0%.

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How serious for us is the Greek tragedy?

  • 16 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Tragic masks, detail from a mosaic of the Triumph of Dionysus uncovered in Daphne, Antioch, Turkey. Roman Civilisation, 2nd to 3rd century.

There is something a bit too deja-vu-ish about this election campaign, especially the tragic Greek economic backdrop.

Just like five years ago, Greece is on the brink of default. But 2015 is very different from 2010 in one important respect: other eurozone countries and the IMF are signalling they won't be panicked into rushing through another bailout.

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IMF says UK still in deficit in 2020

  • 15 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Budget box

The International Monetary Fund has today highlighted the challenge to be faced by the next government in returning the public finances to balance.

Its new official forecast is for the gap between spending and taxes still to be a deficit of £7bn in 2019-20, compared with the Office for Budget Responsibility's forecast made at the last budget for a surplus of £7bn.

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How SNP tests Labour's economic credibility

  • 15 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Sturgeon and Miliband

Earlier this week, Deutsche Bank said there were few positive outcomes for financial markets from the general election, based on what polls are saying.

It thought the most likely of its two so-called "good" outcomes was a Labour-led government supported by the SNP and the Liberal Democrats. This it saw as leading to increased taxes, less austerity and a slower reduction in the deficit.

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Tories’ curious message on work

  • 14 April 2015
  • From the section Business
Sterling cash on payslip

I am a bit puzzled by some of the economic messages sent out by David Cameron and the Tory manifesto.

Take his eye-catching initiative that those working on the minimum wage will be permanently taken out of paying tax by legislation guaranteeing that the tax-free allowance will rise in line with the national minimum wage.

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