Labour seeks to restore trust over economy

Proposed third runway at Heathrow

Labour will seek to re-establish its economic reputation as party members gather en masse for the first time since Jeremy Corbyn's dominant leadership victory.

Mr Corbyn is expected in Brighton after a challenging opening fortnight as Ed Miliband's successor, in which he has faced increased scrutiny over his past statements and ambitions from inside and outside the party.

On the eve of the conference, which starts on Sunday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell sought to reassure voters that Labour is not a "deficit denier", while also offering a different approach to balancing the budget than the Conservatives.

Mr McDonnell revealed the Opposition will support George Osborne's fiscal charter designed to guarantee "budget responsibility".

But he insisted they will seek to protect low and middle-earners and oppose the tax cuts proposed by the Conservatives while looking at measures to tackle tax evasion and avoidance.

Mr McDonnell noted the Chancellor's plans for an overall surplus were "economic illiteracy".

The anti-austerity stance which helped propel Mr Corbyn to the leadership of the party has led to critics - including the Conservatives - to claim Labour cannot be trusted with running the economy.

Voter concerns over the party's economic record have also been cited as a reason for their general election defeat in May.

But Mr McDonnell, in an interview with The Guardian, has sought to counter the criticism by announcing his desire to see Labour MPs support the Chancellor's new fiscal charter.

Mr Osborne's proposal, revealed in July's Budget, commits the Government to keep debt falling as a share of GDP each year and achieve a budget surplus by 2019-20.

After this date, governments will be required to ensure there is a surplus in "normal times", which includes when there is not a recession.

Speaking to The Guardian, Mr McDonnell said: "We accept we are going to have to live within our means and we always will do - full stop.

"We are not deficit deniers."

The shadow chancellor also told the newspaper: "We will support the charter. We will support the charter on the basis we are going to want to balance the book, we do want to live within our means and we will tackle the deficit."

On Labour's approach to reducing the deficit, he explained: "We will tackle the deficit but the dividing line between us and the Tories is how we tackle it.

"Our basic line is we are not allowing either middle or low-earners or those on benefit to have to pay for the crisis. It is as simple as that."

Alongside the economy, the Opposition also wants to outline how Britain's place in the world has changed and to reflect on the lessons of the second Iraq War.

But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn dismissed reports suggesting he is planning to use his conference speech to apologise on behalf of the party for Britain's involvement in the Iraq War.

The Labour leader's spokesman said: "Jeremy Corbyn said during his election campaign that he would apologise for the Iraq War.

"He does intend to, but it will not be at the Labour conference."