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Donor slams Labour economic stance

A wealthy Labour donor has criticised the party for accepting a cuts programme which could plunge Britain into years of "dismally poor" economic performance.

Entrepreneur and economist John Mills, who gave Labour £1.65 million worth of shares in his company this year, said the party appeared "resigned" to poor growth and called for "radical rethinking".

In a pamphlet for the cross-party think-tank Civitas, he even appeared to turn Ed Miliband's central party conference slogan - that "Britain can do better than this" - back on the Opposition leader.

"We may well be into at least a decade of no growth which would have been an almost unthinkable prospect during the boom period prior to 2008," he wrote.

"Unfortunately, anaemic growth since 2008 and falling living standards have ground down optimism that we ought to do better than this - indeed much better if we were bold enough.

"Even the Labour leadership is now talking about accepting most of the economic policy framework established by the coalition Government.

"Almost everyone seems resigned to there being no alternative to years of low or non-existent growth for the foreseeable future."

He went on: "As a result of this consensus that slow growth and high unemployment are inevitable, and that cutbacks and austerity are the only way ahead, we are in great danger that our economic performance is going to remain dismally poor for the foreseeable future.

"Without radical rethinking, the UK and much of the West more generally may sink into the same sort of economic torpor which has gripped Japan for almost all of the last two decades, although there are signs that very recent policy changes may alter the picture there for the better."

The UK and weaker eurozone economies were evidence of the failure of austerity spending restraint, he wrote.

"It may well be the case that Government expenditure is uncomfortably high as a percentage of GDP and well in excess of the income available to finance it in all these economies, but the way to tackle this problem is not to cut public expenditure.

"It is to improve business and consumer confidence and to get the foreign payments deficit under control."

Mr Mills is vice-chairman of the Economic Research Council and chairs the People's Pledge campaign for a referendum on Britain's EU membership.

Labour has faced Tory calls to repay up to £1.6 million in tax alleged to have been avoided by Mr Mills' donation being made in the form of shares rather than cash.

The party has defended the unusual donation method, insisting it had been "declared in full" to a party funding watchdog and was in line with the rules.


From Belfast Telegraph