UK Politics

Lord Mandelson tells Labour shadow cabinet to be 'honest' on cuts

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Media captionLord Mandelson says Labour must make the implications of spending cuts clear

Former Business Secretary Lord Mandelson has told Labour's shadow cabinet to "play as a team" and be up front about the spending cuts needed to their departments.

Each member of Ed Miliband's front bench must be "honest with the public", he said.

Labour says it will balance the books "as soon as possible" in the next Parliament if it wins the election.

Prime Minister David Cameron says Labour's plans are a "massive gamble".

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has written to party colleagues warning them they face cuts in their departmental budgets year after year until the deficit on day-to-day spending has gone.

'Spell it out'

But speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Lord Mandelson said: "There's no point just leaving it to the two Eds to make these statements.

"The shadow cabinet as a whole has to play as a team on this."

Labour had "put the deficit ball in the back of the net" in recent weeks, he claimed, but added: "To keep it there, each member of the shadow cabinet has got to be honest with the public.

"They've got to set out what this means for their own departmental budgets and demonstrate to the public that they mean it."

Lord Mandelson, who served under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown between 1997 and 2010, said explaining cuts and investment would be Labour's "anchor" at the election, and called for shadow ministers to "spell it out".

At the Autumn Statement, the Office for Budget Responsibility raised its borrowing forecast for the current financial year from £86.6bn to £91.3bn but said this would still be below last year's total of £97.5bn.

Conservative Chancellor George Osborne plans to achieve a surplus in the public finances by 2018/19. He has said he believes this can be done without any tax rises.

The Liberal Democrats say they too would balance the books by 2018/19, but would do this using tax rises as well as spending cuts.

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