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Labour 'can't pledge cuts reversal'

Labour can make no promises to reverse Government spending cuts if it is to win the political battle on the economy, shadow chancellor Ed Balls has warned.

Mr Balls said the party had to show it could maintain "fiscal discipline" if voters were to accept it offered a credible alternative to the policies of the coalition.

His comments came as Labour leader Ed Miliband used a keynote speech to declare he was ready to make the "difficult choices" necessary in economically straitened times.

However after Mr Miliband again refused to accept the last Labour government had overspent in the run-up to the economic crisis, the Tories said he had "learned nothing from the past" and could not be trusted with the future.

In his speech the Labour leader offered the example of Government cuts to the winter fuel allowance as one change a Labour government may be unable to reverse if the party won the next general election.

However, with the structural deficit in the public finances now forecast to continue beyond 2015, Mr Balls warned the belt-tightening would have to go much further. While he said the Government was cutting "recklessly fast" - choking off economic growth - Labour would still face difficult decisions if it succeeded in regaining office.

"We cannot win the arguments for the alternatives, short-term and long-term, unless people say that we would make the tough decisions in (the) long-term interests of the country based on fiscal discipline and probity. That is an essential argument for us to win," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One. "We can make no commitment to reverse any of the Government's tax rises or spending cuts because we don't know the state of the economy we are going to inherit and what the fiscal position will be."

In his speech, Mr Miliband said the worsening economic outlook meant that, unlike the last Labour government, an incoming Labour administration would not be able to rely on a buoyant economy to support its plans. He added: "We will have to make difficult choices that all of us wish we did not have to make."

However Conservative Party deputy chairman Michael Fallon said he still needed to produce a "credible plan" for cutting the deficit if Labour was to be taken seriously on the economy.

"If he seriously accepts there's less money to spend, he would stop making billions of new unfunded spending promises and instead tell us what Labour would cut," he said. "Instead Ed Miliband has given us another relaunch but still no credibility."

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