The “anti-austerity rhetoric” of the Scottish National Party is not matched by its detailed spending plans and it would impose deeper cuts than Labour, an independent fiscal watchdog has said.
In a setback to Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to portray Labour as “Tory-lite” on spending cuts, the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said that austerity would last longer under the SNP than other parties, with most government departments facing cuts of 4.3 per cent.
The IFS said the SNP would reduce borrowing by the same amount as Labour, but at a slower pace. It said Labour might need only £1bn of spending cuts to meet the party’s fiscal rules. The similarity between the Labour and SNP plans will fuel speculation about a post-election deal between the two parties in a hung parliament.
After analysing the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP manifestos, the IFS said there was a “bigger choice” than at any election since 1992, but warned that voters were “somewhat in the dark” because the parties had not disclosed their planned tax rises or spending cuts. It suggested the parties were keen to use the election campaign to state how they would increase spending –such as on the NHS --rather than how they would make people worse off to balance the nation’s books.
Carl Emmerson, the IFS deputy director, said: “There are genuinely big differences between the main parties’ fiscal plans. The electorate has a real choice, although it can at best see only the broad outlines of that choice.”
All the parties moved quickly to put their best gloss on the findings. The SNP described them as “deeply flawed”. John Swinney, the SNP Finance Secretary, said it was “simply not credible” for the IFS to describe the SNP as the only party planning to increase total spending each year and “then claim we are planning cuts.”
General election 2015: The worst gaffes and controversies
General election 2015: The worst gaffes and controversies
1/35 4 May: Milibrand part 2
Russell Brand dramatically unveiled the second part of his interview with Ed Miliband, in which he agreed with the leader and then called on his YouTube viewers to vote Labour. David Cameron had described him as a "joke" who previously advocated not voting - but with Brand commanding more than a million YouTube subscribers that may come back to haunt the Tories.
2/35 3 May: #EdStone
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveiled Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings. He said it showed his commitment to keep promises - but many mocked the "risible" stunt and said it would be the "tombstone" for Labour's election hopes.
3/35 2 May: Ukip candidate suspended
A Ukip candidate who described himself as “unapologetically politically incorrect pro-British” was suspended after suggesting Shadow Minister Luciana Berger had split loyalties because she is Jewish. In one Twitter message Jack Sen, standing in West Lancashire, said: “Protect child benefits? If you had it your way you'd send the £ to Poland/ Israel.”
4/35 1 May: 'It's all about my career... I mean country'
Labour jumped on another David Cameron gaffe after the PM said on the campaign trail that the election was a “career defining” moment when he meant to say “country defining”. Ed Miliband's party pounced, saying the remarks were proof Mr Cameron “puts his career before the country”. “It’s all about Dave,” the party tweeted.
5/35 30 April: The Sun has got two hats on
The Sun revealed who it was supporting in the election - both the Tories and, in Scotland, the SNP. While the UK edition of the newspaper called on the British public to vote Conservative so as to "stop [the] SNP running the country", The Scottish Sun announced its support for Nicola Sturgeon's party saying it will "fight harder for Scotland's interests at Westminster".
6/35 29 April: Complacent Conservative?
Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith failed to turn up to hustings in his own constituency following a 'late change in his schedule'. Wags observed that it was ironic given the minister has ramped up monetary sanctions against people who do not attend job interviews or JobCentre meetings.
7/35 28 April: Offensively independent
An independent candidate standing in Northern Ireland proudly came up with the least 'politically correct' leaflet of the campaign. Susan-Anne White declared she would criminalise adultery and homosexuality, end sex education, reinstate corporal punishment and much more.
8/35 26 April: The Ed and Boris bust-up
In what was widely hailed as the best bit of election TV so far, Ed Miliband and Boris Johnson clashed head-to-head in angry scenes live on the Andrew Marr Show, forcing their usually genial host to intervene and tell the pair of them to "shut up". The increasingly animated London Mayor repeated personal attacks over Mr Miliband 'stabbing his brother in the back', while the Labour leader got in some jibes of his own about Mr Johnson's Eton education.
9/35 25 April: Political football
David Cameron’s football-loving credentials received a kicking at a campaign event in Croydon after he suggested to the audience he supported West Ham- despite previously claiming he was a huge Aston Villa fan. When asked about his sudden change in loyalty, Cameron later said he was still a Villa fan and blamed the slip up on a 'brain fade'.
10/35 24 April: Migrant crisis made political
Ed Miliband was branded 'shameful' by Downing Street after he said David Cameron was partly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean. The Labour leader said the Prime Minister’s role in creating instability in Libya had contributed to thousands of north Africans drowning in the Mediterranean as they try to flee the crisis. A senior Tory called the comments 'deeply provocative'
11/35 23 April: IFS accusations
Voters are being kept 'in the dark' by all the main parties over future spending cuts and tax rises, the influential Institute for Fiscal studies said. A detailed study of the party manifestos by the think-tank concluded that none of the Lib Dems, Labour, the Conservatives or SNP had provided "anything like full details" on plans to cut the deficit over the next five-year Parliament.
12/35 22 April: The not-so-Green Party
A group of leading scientists and campaigners rounded on the Green Party, accusing it of turning its back on its main mission by largely ignoring the crucial issue of climate change in the run-up to the general election. Critics said that although the Green Party manifesto contains plenty of references to policies on global warming, the party was 'grievously at fault' for leaving the subject largely unspoken in campaigning by the party and its leader, Natalie Bennett.
13/35 21 April: Wikipedia edits
Tory party chairman Grant Shapps was accused of editing the Wikipedia pages of his Conservative rivals and allegedly changing his own page to delete embarrassing references to his past. A Wikipedia administrator reported and suspended an account called 'Contribsx' on suspicion it was being used by Mr Shapps or 'someone acting on his behalf'.
14/35 20 April: Dodgy Tory donors?
The Conservatives were forced to return more than £50,000 in donations from a businesswoman whose husband was convicted of tax fraud in the US. Beatrice Tollman, who donated £20,000 as recently as early April, was herself charged with conspiracy to evade millions of dollars’ worth of tax in the US, charges that were dismissed by a judge in 2008
15/35 19 April: Miliband a hit among the hens
Ed Miliband was described as "the stripper" by a group of women on a hen party in Chester after they spotted the parked-up Labour battle bus. But not everyone saw it as statesmanlike behaviour, some saying it was 'cringe-worthy' and others reporting he looked 'absolutely terrified'
16/35 18 April: DUP on gay marriage
A right-wing Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland politician thanked Nick Clegg for 'reminding' voters that they are seeking to abolish same-sex marriage. After the Lib Dems set up a satirical website accusing the DUP of wanting to 'reject gay rights', North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said he was grateful to Mr Clegg 'for reminding people of the pivotal role the DUP can play'
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
17/35 17 April: Labour 'metaphors'
A Labour candidate was forced to apologise for “getting carried away with colourful metaphors” after making a joke about being caught in a threesome with Ed Miliband and a goat. Clive Lewis, a former reporter for BBC Look East who is now standing in Norwich South, said "anything could happen" when asked if he could be beaten by the Greens. After the Miliband example caused a bit of a backlash he added: "If anyone was genuinely offended then I'm sincerely sorry for that."
18/35 16 April: Ukip candidate calls Islam 'evil cult'
A Ukip candidate standing for Parliament faced being sacked by the party after describing Islam as an “evil cult”. Stephen Latham, who is fighting the West Bromwich East seat, made the remarks in a Facebook post. He later said: "I wouldn’t have meant it about Islam itself. It would have been about the people causing problems."
19/35 15 April: Labour candidate 'forgets manifesto'
A video emerged of a Labour candidate suffering a terrifically awkward 'brain fade' and failing to name her party’s key policies. During an interview with local website The Chiswick Calendar, Ruth Cadbury (running for Brentford and Isleworth) froze: "Um… I can’t remember my key… I do need to check… I’m reading them every day... er… sorry… Labour’s key policies..."
The Chiswick Calendar
20/35 14 April: Tory candidate 'wristbands'
There were calls and a petition for the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Cambridge to stand down, after she said that mental health patients could wear colour-coded wristbands to identify their conditions. Chamali Fernando was accused of showing 'prejudice' and 'remind[ing] us how far we have to go' by mental health campaigners
21/35 13 April: Smarter than a 10-year-old?
Former PR man David Cameron is used to spinning his way out of trouble against the most challenging interviewers - yet came completely unstuck on a visit to a primary school for Newsround. With his guard down, 10-year-old Reema asked: 'If you could pick one politician apart from yourself to win who would it be and why?' Cameron said it was the 'best' question he'd had so far on the campaign, um-ed, ah-ed and failed to give a clear answer.
22/35 9 April: Ukip's porn star candidate
A mini-scandal surrounded Ukip's Bristol branch when it emerged the vice chair had an unusual second job as a veteran porn star. The party insisted it was happy to support candidates regardless of what they did in their spare time, adding proudly that 'no other party' would have taken John Langley - aka 'Johnny Rockard'.
23/35 8 April: Ed Balls on non-doms
No sooner had Ed Miliband announced a popular Labour policy to scrap the non-dom tax status, a video emerged of Ed Balls explaining how such a move would end up costing Britain more.
24/35 5 April: Tories taking care of business (owners)
In an interview with this newspaper Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, revealed that a senior Conservative minister told a Liberal Democrat cabinet colleague: 'You take care of the workers and we’ll take care of the bosses' in a private Whitehall meeting to discuss the Coalition Government’s priorities.
25/35 3 April: Nicola Sturgeon 'memo'
Nicola Sturgeon was forced to deny telling the French ambassador she wanted the Tories to win the election in May in preference to Labour, after a 'memo' to that effect was leaked to the Telegraph.
26/35 2 April: Nigel Farage on HIV
UKIP leader Nigel Farage sparked controversy during the ITV Leader's Debate 2015 for saying that immigrants who were HIV positive should not be able to enter the country and use the NHS for free.
Ken McKay/ITV via Getty Images
27/35 29 March: Labour mugs
Senior Labour MP Diane Abbott was among those who led a backlash against a mug being sold by the party celebrating its new commitment to a tough immigration system.
28/35 23 March: Ukip's Atkinson expelled
Janice Atkinson, an MEP and once one of Ukip's most senior figures, was expelled after she was found to have brought the party into disrepute. Ms Atkinson’s chief of staff was secretly recorded appearing to ask the manager of a restaurant in Margate to more than treble the £950 cost of a meal before Ukip’s spring conference. Nigel Farage later said the claims 'couldn't look worse'.
Chris Radburn/PA Wire
29/35 8 January: 'Meet the Ukippers'
Ukip councillor Rozanne Duncan was expelled from the party for saying she had a problem with black people because there was 'something about their faces' during filming for the BBC documentary 'Meet the Ukippers'
30/35 20 November: Emily Thornberry and the white van
Labour front bench MP Emily Thornberry was forced to resign after tweeted a photo of a house in Rochester adorned with three England flags and a white van out the front, which saw her accused of holding working class voters in 'contempt'.
31/35 22 October: Ukip Calypso
The former BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read was forced to apologise for "unintentionally causing offence" with his song Ukip Calypso and asked his record company to withdraw it. The song, which the Surrey-born disc jockey sang in a mock Jamaican accent, had been branded “racist”.
32/35 7 October: Forgetful Boris
During his Ask Boris show on LBC prior to the Clacton by-election last year, the London Mayor was asked by Nick Ferrari who the Tory candidate was. Boris replied: "We've got a fantastic guy called - oh he’s brilliant… I don’t know... he is superb man .. Stirling? Girling? Something like that… what’s he called? You tell me." It was Giles Watling, Boris.
33/35 18 August: Janice Atkinson
The senior Ukip MEP was forced to apologise after she was recorded by BBC South East Today describing a Thai constituent as 'a Ting Tong from somewhere'. It wasn't enough to see her disowned by the party - that came later when she was caught in a newspaper sting relating to expenses
34/35 16 May (2014): Nigel Farage on LBC
Nigel Farage's car-crash performance on LBC was one of his worst in recent years, and culminated in him saying he would be 'uncomfortable' with a Romanian family moving in next door. The gaffe later saw Ukip take out a full-page newspaper advert insisting it was not a racist party.
35/35 20 March (2014): 'Patronising' Grant Shapps
Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, came under pressure from across the political spectrum after a 'patronising' tweet in which he suggested Budget measures to halve bingo tax and cut the price of beer by 1p would 'help hardworking people do more of the things they enjoy'
George Osborne, the Chancellor, rejected the IFS call for him to spell out £30bn of spending cuts. He said: “We face this choice in our country. Do we get straight back to work on an economic plan that is working under David Cameron? Or do we have the profound instability of a Miliband- SNP government borrowing more?”
Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, said the IFS had made wrong assumptions about Labour’s plans. He highlighted the institute’s warning that the proposed Tory cuts could hit tax credits and child benefit.
“The Conservatives need to spell out substantially more detail of how they will deliver the overall fiscal targets they have set themselves.” Their £5bn saving from curbing tax avoidance is “largely unspecified.”
There would be lower debt interest payments but deeper spending cuts or tax rises than under other parties.
“Debt would be about £90bn more in 2019-20 if Labour’s plans were implemented than if the Conservatives plans were implemented. Higher debt entails higher debt interest payments, and would potentially leave the Government less well placed to deal with future adverse effects.”
Labour has been much less clear than the Tories about the level and timing of deficit reduction, but has given more detail. No guarantee that £7.5bn would be raised by tackling tax avoidance. Commitments to increase some areas of public spending no bigger than the Tories’. But much looser fiscal rule means Labour might need only £1bn of further cuts.
The IFS said they have been “more transparent” about their fiscal plans than the two biggest parties; would cut less than Tories but more than Labour. £12bn of cuts to unprotected departments. But Lib Dems plans are based on two optimistic claims: vast majority of welfare savings would be achieved by reducing benefit fraud and error and getting the jobless back to work; and raising £10bn from reducing tax avoidance.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY
The IFS found “a considerable disconnect” between the SNP’s “anti-austerity rhetoric” not the party’s plans, which imply a lower level of spending than Labour by 2019-20. The SNP “would cut less to start with but the implication of the plans … is that the period of austerity would be longer than under the other three parties.”
Tax takeaways appear to be offset by tax giveaways, and the SNP would make the social security system more generous. As a result, departmental spending would be broadly frozen, and spending other than NHS and overseas aid could face a 4.3 per cent cut.
Praised for being only party not to use “largely made-up assumptions” on cutting tax avoidance to make their sums add up.
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