The general election campaign continues with pledges, promises and warnings aplenty as each party attempts to convince the public they are the right people to run the UK for the next five years.
While the different campaigns seek to win voters over to their manifestos they are also attempting to turn the electorate away from their opponents.
In that vein the Conservatives have claimed Labour’s spending pledges would cost the UK £1.2trillion over the course of a five-year period in government, but are the claims true?
Sajid Javid, chancellor of the exchequer, said a Labour government would see the UK plunged into an economic crisis “within months”.
The Tories are basing their claim of £1.2tn of spending over five years on a combination of Labour’s 2017 manifesto and pledges the opposition have made since the last general election.
Javid said Labour being elected would see government spending rise by around £650 million a day, describing the spending as an “absolutely reckless” exercise which would bring the UK to the “brink of bankruptcy”.
The Conservatives traditionally like to style themselves as the party of fiscal responsibility but both parties will have to borrow money for their spending plans. Labour would spend more than them but Tory spending plans are projected to see the UK miss targets to drop public borrowing below two per cent of national income by 2020-21.
With neither party appearing to be very responsible if they get control of the pursestrings for the next five years, the Tories line of attack on the economy is never mind what they are spending, Labour will spend more and that would be worse.
The Counter Claim
Labour has denounced the claim they are going to spend £1.2tn while in office as a “ludicrous piece of Tory fake news” and “an incompetent mish-mash of debunked estimates and bad maths”.
The Daily Mirror reports that many of the figures the Tories have used to put together their estimate of Labour’s spending are “misleading, debunked or just plain wrong”.
The Tories have overpriced some of the spending pledges and ignored the potential economic benefits of others, making the staggering figure of £1.2tn a highly unreliable measure of the amount Labour would spend during their time in office.
Labour hasn’t even published their manifesto yet, so the actual spending plans are unconfirmed. The party said when they did publish their plans during the election campaign they would be fully costed.
Both Labour and the Tories have been challenged by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Sir Ed Davey to submit their manifestos to the Office for Budget Responsibility to be independently costed, producing a more accurate figure for the public to consider when they cast their vote.
Paul Johnson, director for the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said a judgment couldn’t be made on Labour’s potential spending until their manifesto was actually published. The party have said they would spend a lot of money but the specific figures won’t be clear until everyone knows what they’re actually planning to do.
Johnson also pointed out what a party said they’d do in their manifesto and what they’d actually do once in government were two very different things, noting that the Conservatives have done little that was in their 2017 manifesto and spent far more than they said they would.
The Conservatives attempted to get the civil service to cost Labour’s spending pledges but their efforts were blocked after Sir Mark Sedwill, the UK’s highest ranking civil servant, decided it would be improper.
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Civil servants cannot perform actions which would call their impartiality into question. Publishing costs of spending pledges of one party at the request of another would be considered a breach of their impartiality.
Previous governments have used Treasury figures to criticise the economic plans of their opposition but did so long before a general election. It was judged that publishing a financial analysis of Labour’s promises during the election campaign itself was not right for the civil service to do.