Labour will vote against the Tory Government’s proposed charter for fiscal responsibility, it has been reported today.
In what may be described as a u-turn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has written to Labour MPs urging them to “underline our position as an anti-austerity party” by opposing the Government’s charter.
Labour had originally planned to back the Government’s proposal to balance the nations book within three years, whilst tabling amendments to limit its impact on low-income households.
However, Channel 4 reports that the possibility of tabling amendments has since been ruled out by House of Commons clerks.
Eager to avoid being labelled as “deficit deniers”, the party plans to publish its own statement on budget responsibility. This will be debated in a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party tonight.
McDonnell says Labour would balance the books by “tackling tax evasion and investing for growth”, rather than “punishing the most vulnerable and decimating our public services”.
The move brings the party more inline with the SNP, who will also vote against the charter and continue to oppose the Tories’ austerity agenda.
In the letter to fellow MPs, Mr McDonnell says: “In the last fortnight there have been a series of reports highlighting the economic challenges facing the global economy as a result of the slowdown in emerging markets.
“These have included warnings from the International Monetary Fund’s latest financial stability report, the Bank of England chief economist, Andy Haldane, and the former Director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers.”
He added: “I believe that we need to underline our position as an anti-austerity party by voting against the charter on Wednesday.
“We will rebuff any allegation of being deficit deniers by publishing for the debate our own statement on budget responsibility.
“We will set out our plan for tackling the deficit not through punishing the most vulnerable and decimating our public services but by ending the unfair tax cuts to the wealthy, tackling tax evasion and investing for growth.”
The SNP welcomed the announced, but added that “it shows that Labour is a party in chaos”.
SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP said: “This is promising news, but its disgraceful there has had to be any doubt that the Labour party would oppose Tory cuts, and it is astonishing that they were ever considering voting for the charter.
“The SNP has been calling on Jeremy Corbyn to join us in voting against the UK government’s budget plans – he must live up to the pledges that got him elected as Labour Leader, and this week’s vote on austerity is a major test for him and his party.
“Every single Labour MP must now join the SNP and vote no to Tory austerity or their credibility will be in ruins.
“However once again it shows that Labour is a party in chaos, and is deeply divided on the issue of austerity as with so much else.
“Jeremy Corbyn has already had to climb down on Trident following a humiliating U-turn at the Labour conference when he was overruled by his shadow cabinet and senior colleagues.
“If Mr Corbyn is serious about winning back the trust of the people of Scotland, he will join with the SNP and vote against Osborne’s austerity.’’
UPDATE: MPs have voted in favour of the Government’s fiscal charter, 320 to 258 votes – 21 Labour MPs abstained.
Last updated at 20:41 on 12 October 2015 to include a comment from the SNP.