After the atrocity in Manchester on Monday night, campaigning for the general election resumes today. With just a fortnight to go before voting, the parties have a lot of ground to cover, not least their plans for the economy.
I don’t suppose either Labour or the Conservatives will thank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) for its report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, published this morning. In it, the IFS points the finger at both parties, saying the Tories don’t have many new details on spending, while Labour’s tax increase and spending plans won’t work.
It’s pretty damning stuff. Essentially, the think tank is saying that neither party is being honest when it comes to tax and spending policies.
Carl Emmerson, deputy director of the IDS, said: ‘The shame of the two big parties’ manifestos is that neither sets out an honest set of choices. Neither addresses the long-term challenges we face. For Labour we can have pretty much everything – free higher education, free childcare, more spending on pay, health, infrastructure. And the pretence is that can all be funded by faceless corporations and “the rich”. The case [for higher taxes] needs to be made with honesty about what it would mean for tax payments, not pretending that everything can be paid for by “someone else”.’
As for the Tories, he said: ‘The Conservatives simply offer the cuts already promised. Additional funding pledges for the NHS and schools are just confirming that spending would rise in a way broadly consistent with the March budget.’
Meanwhile, Paul Johnson, IFS director, said: ‘In one sense the two main parties have rarely offered the British such a clear and substantial choice. One is promising relatively low levels of spending, tax and borrowing, while the other is promising a much bigger state. But neither is being really honest with the public. It is likely that the Conservatives would either have to resort to tax or borrowing increases to bail out public services under increasing pressure, or would risk presiding over a decline in the quality of some of those services, including the NHS.
‘Labour’s commitment to a much bigger public sector would require higher taxes that affect many of us. A bigger state than the one we have been used to is perfectly feasible as many countries have demonstrated, but Labour should not pretend that such a step-change could be funded entirely by a small minority at the very top. In particular the large increase in company taxation that they propose would undoubtedly affect a far broader group than that.’
Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator