General Election 2015: Ed Miliband is 'ready' to be Prime Minister - but the IFS says Labour still lacks clarity over the deficit

Experts says that Labour's 'borrow for investment' plans could leave the UK with a £30bn deficit by 2020

Ed Miliband declared that is “ready” to be prime minister as he launched Labour’s manifesto but independent experts criticised the party’s lack of clarity on the deficit.

Labour tried to reassure voters about its economic competence by trumpeting its pledge to balance the books and avoiding a “shopping list” of new policies. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the party had left itself huge room for manoeuvre, so that spending cuts under Labour from next year could range from zero to £6bn. “We literally would not know what we're voting for if we voted for Labour,” said Paul Johnson, the IFS director.

Labour promised to eliminate the deficit on day-to-day spending on public services “as soon as possible” before 2020. But it would “borrow for investment,” which the IFS said could leave the UK with a £30bn deficit by 2020.

Labour insisted it was being more open about its plans than any opposition party in modern times. Launching the manifesto in Manchester, Mr Miliband said: “It is a plan which shows Labour is not only the party of change but the party of responsibility too."

 

He tried to turn the tables on the Tories, accusing them rushing out more than £20bn of unfunded spending commitments in recent days in “panic and desperation” . Labour did not  match David Cameron’s pledge of an extra £8bn for the NHS by 2020.

In a confident performance, Mr Miliband declared: “Over the last four-and-a-half years, I have been tested. It is right that I have been tested for the privilege of leading this country. I am ready. Ready to put an end to the tired old idea that as long as we look after the rich and powerful we will all be OK. Ready to put into practice the truth that it is only when working people succeed, that Britain succeeds."

Pledging to stand up to powerful  interests such as banks, energy companies and Rupert Murdoch, he asked voters: “Who do you want standing up for you? The answer will never be David Cameron because he is strong at standing up to the weak but always weak when it comes to standing up to the strong."

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Mr Miliband insisted Labour would make cuts to ensure the deficit fell every year. But so far the party as identified only about £1bn of savings. He also said Scotland would be affected by cuts. The Scottish National Party claimed this contradicted statements by Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader. A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Jim Murphy and Ed Balls have always been very clear that we will balance the books in a fair way - through tax rises on the wealthiest few, making work pay to increase tax revenues, and making sensible savings. Jim has said this several times before and the Tories and Nationalists have reacted this way each time.”

The Tories claimed Labour had left the door wide open for a £3,000 tax rise for every working family. While Labour pledged not to raise the 20p or 40p tax rates, the Tories said the party made no promise on the thresholds where they kicked in.

Mr Cameron said: “Labour is committed to running a budget deficit forever. So this is not a conversion to responsibility, it is a con trick and more borrowing would mean more taxes. So, frankly, it's the same old Labour and the same old mess that it produced the last time it was in government."


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