Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown to Outline Big Cuts as Tories Take 16% Poll Lead

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brown to Outline Big Cuts as Tories Take 16% Poll Lead

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Waugh Deputy Political Editor

GORDON BROWN is set to outline a raft of spending cuts before the next election in a bid to persuade the voters that Labour is serious about cutting the soaring deficit.

As a new poll gave the Conservatives a commanding 16-point lead, it emerged that the Prime Minister is ready to unveil a specific list of savings across Whitehall.

The cuts, which would be on top of the [pounds sterling]35 billion efficiency programme already announced, would involve big projects being shelved, delayed or abandoned, it was claimed.

Mr Brown will insist that he still believes the main general election battle will centre on "Labour investment v Tory cuts", but he has come under pressure to spell out to voters where he would also save money.

Party strategists are drawing up plans for "compassionate cuts" to reduce the soaring public debt without hitting frontline services.

Ministers will also claim that their investment in school and hospital buildings is paying off and that the Treasury's "fiscal stimulus" has helped prevent recession from turning into depression.

The new approach is expected to form part of the Prime Minister's autumn fightback with Mr Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling set to use next month's TUC conference to call for pay restraint among high earners in the public sector to match that of those in the private sector.

But Labour's hopes of a poll boost from the recent summer onslaught over Tory NHS policy appeared to be dashed today.

A Guardian/ICM poll put the Conservatives on 41 per cent (unchanged), Labour on 25 per cent (down two) and the Lib-Dems on 19 per cent (down one). The survey showed David Cameron had suffered little damage from the NHS row prompted by MEP Dan Hannan declaring the health service was a "60-year mistake".

The poll said 48 per cent of people think health care would be better under a Tory government, with 41 per cent saying it would be worse. Perhaps most worrying for Mr Brown is that 24 per cent of current Labour voters think the Tories would improve the NHS.

Although the figures point to a healthy Conservative majority, Labour insiders have told Mr Brown that the poll lead is "soft" and can be worn down by pointing out how sketchy Tory policy currently appears. …

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