Labour claimed the Conservatives’ opening shot in the general election campaign had backfired today as the Opposition rejected George Osborne’s claim that it had made £20.7bn of unfunded spending pledges.
The Chancellor warned that a Labour government would create economic chaos as he published an 82-page dossier listing £18.074bn of new spending promised by Labour; £5.189bn of cuts Labour would reverse and £2.517bn of revenue Labour would raise. He claimed that would result in £20.746bn of unfunded spending in the 2015-16 financial year.
Mr Osborne, flanked by four other Cabinet ministers, told an election-style Westminster press conference that Labour's policy proposals would require the equivalent of an extra £1,200 of borrowing for every household.
The Chancellor said the dossier showed that Labour had “not demonstrated the fiscal discipline or economic competence that earns an opposition the credibility to form a government.” He added: “The evidence shows they are a risk to economic recovery. So the British people have a clear choice at the next election - continue on the road to a stronger economy with a competent Conservative team that have a long-term plan or choose the chaos of over £20 billion of unfunded spending promises, higher taxes and more borrowing offered by the alternatives which would take us back to the economic mess Britain was in five years ago.
"Competence or chaos. That is the choice. Let's not throw it all away, let's work through the plan."
But even as Mr Osborne was speaking, Labour issued strong denials of some of the claims in the dossier. For example, Labour insisted that it was not the party’s policy to ban food waste from landfill sites, which the Tories claimed would cost £477m. Labour also denied that it would reverse more than £5bn of cuts, including £3.3bn to local government and £83m to the Arts Council. Labour dismissed as “nonsense” a Tory claim that it would boost cycling at a cost of £63m.
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General election 2015: 10 expert predictions
Tory sources admitted that some of their calculations had been “reasonable assumptions” based on speeches by Opposition frontbenchers, but insisted that the vast majority were from Labour policy documents or statements. The Tories said the costings had been signed off by neutral Treasury civil servants, in line with normal pre-election practice.
Experts' predictions for the general election
Experts' predictions for the general election
1/10 Andrew Hawkins (ComRes)
Just as the polls in 2010 pointed to no overall majority for any party, the overwhelming evidence points to Labour either being the largest party or getting a small majority, probably below 20. The Lib Dems and SNP should each win between 25 and 35 seats, with single-figure wins for both Ukip and the Greens.
2/10 Joe Twyman (YouGov)
I predict it will be close. I predict a few tremors, though earthquakes are unlikely. I predict the eventual winner may not be the direct result of public opinion, but instead the outcome of political negotiations. It’s too early to predict numbers given all the uncertainties surrounding (among other things) Ukip, the SNP and the Lib Dems. It is possible that it will be close between Conservative and Labour in terms of both votes and seats. The Lib Dems might retain 20-30 seats and the balance of power, despite small gains for the SNP, and at most half a dozen Ukip seats. Gun to my head? Labour minority government.
3/10 Ben Page (Ipsos MORI)
A mug’s game for this election months away, but my predictions in order of likelihood: most likely a hung parliament or coalition of some kind, closely followed by either a small Labour majority or an equally small Conservative majority. Given how close the parties are, the unknown performance of Ukip in key marginals, the effect of incumbency on Lib Dem losses, the final size of SNP surge and so on, to be more precise is simply foolish! Professor Tetlock, who found that forecasts by experts were only slightly better than throwing dice, weighs heavily upon me!
4/10 Rick Nye (Populus)
I can see a hung parliament, where Labour is the largest party in terms of seats – though not necessarily in terms of votes, with the Lib Dems having 30 seats or fewer, the SNP having up to 20 seats and Ukip having no more than five seats. In short, it’s going to get messy and stay messy for some time to come.
5/10 Nick Moon (GfK)
I can’t recall there ever being an election more difficult to predict than this one. I’m confident no party will have an overall majority, with the Tories probably the largest party but no single partner for a viable coalition, with the Lib Dems on 25 seats, the SNP 20, Ukip three, and the Greens one.
6/10 Damian Lyons Lowe (Survation)
We might have expected a workable Labour majority, were it not for the wild-card rise of the SNP in Scotland. Survation’s December Scottish polls suggest an almost complete wipeout by the SNP in Scotland and result in 40+ seat gains – mostly at Labour’s expense. My current predictions are: Labour the largest party by 40-50 seats over the Tories, no overall majority; Tories 235-255 seats; Lib Dems 20-30 seats; SNP 30-40 seats – maybe held back from potential support level by opposition incumbency and tactical voting by pro-unionist voters. Finally, Ukip, 5-10 wins from Conservatives, including Rochester and Clacton, and potentially a single Labour-seat surprise.
7/10 Michelle Harrison (TNS)
The battleground over the next three months is at the kitchen table – the difference between what the statistics tell us about the economy, the experience that Britons are having of managing their household budgets, and where – and if – they believe politics can make a difference. In this regard, the disconnect with the major political parties is more interesting than the horse race.
8/10 James Endersby (Opinium Research)
Our first poll for 2015 shows Labour one point ahead [see above], but polls four months out from an election are snapshots, not predictions. It would be extremely unwise for a pollster to make a firm prediction now. At the moment, Opinium’s estimate on polling day would be the Tories slightly ahead on vote share, but Labour slightly ahead on seats. These numbers are based on a uniform swing, with tweaks to Green and Ukip numbers based on local information: Labour 320 seats, Conservatives 271, Lib Dems 20, SNP 16, Plaid Cymru three, Greens two, Ukip four. A hung parliament with Labour potentially closer to a majority coalition than the Conservatives.
9/10 Martin Boon (ICM)
I’ve not recovered from the Scottish referendum campaign yet, and here we go with another wildcard strewn nail-biter. For me, Labour on 30 per cent will only fractionally nudge past their woeful 2010 showing – behind the Tories on 33 per cent – but enough to secure more seats (290 for Labour, 280 for the Tories) on boundary wackiness. The Lib Dems will secure 14 per cent of the vote and 35 seats; Ukip will also get 14 per cent, but that only gets them a couple of seats. As for Scotland, I’m bewildered, but as you asked I’ll say 30 seats for the SNP, which wipes out a breathing-space victory in seats for Labour.
10/10 Lord Ashcroft (Lord Ashcroft Polls)
Declined to take part. His spokeswoman said: “As he has said many times, his polls are snapshots not predictions.” Health warning: when The Independent on Sunday carried out a similar exercise in April 2010, at the start of that year’s election campaign, eight out of eight pollsters predicted a Conservative overall majority.
But Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, replied: “This dodgy Tory dossier is riddled with untruths and errors on every page. It isn't an impartial exercise but a political smear based on false assumptions made by Tory advisers, including dozens of claims which are not even Labour’s policies.
“Labour has made no unfunded spending or tax commitments. In contrast the Tories have made over £7 billion a year of unfunded tax promises. George Osborne failed to explain today how they would be paid for.”Reuse content