General election 2019: Tories step up attack on Labour spending plans

Image copyright
PA Media

Image caption

Sajid Javid says Labour would “massively increase borrowing and debt”, and “hike up taxes”

The Conservatives have launched a fresh attack on what they say are Labour’s “reckless” spending plans.

Labour has yet to publish its election manifesto but the Tories have claimed that there is a “black hole” in its economic policies.

The Tories have tried to calculate the additional taxes they believe a Labour government would have to introduce if they win power on 12 December.

Labour has dismissed the figures as “more fake news” from Tory HQ.

Shadow Treasury minister Jonathan Reynolds said: “Labour will set out our plans and our costings fully when we release our manifesto.

“The Conservatives should spend more time looking at their own policies as they failed to produce costings at the last election.”

In other election developments:

Both main parties are planning to borrow money to spend on infrastructure projects if they win the general election.

But Chancellor Sajid Javid claims Labour would not only “massively increase borrowing and debt”, it would also “hike up taxes” to pay for its programme.

He estimates that this would amount to an extra £2,400 per year for every taxpayer.

“The British people have made huge progress over the last decade in repairing the damage left to us by the last Labour government,” said Mr Javid.

“If Jeremy Corbyn gets into power he would throw all that hard work away.”

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the Conservatives’ attack was part of a clear strategy for the “early skirmishes” of the election campaign.

He said they were seeking to build an argument about what they call the “cost of Corbyn”.

The Conservatives are repeating their previous claim that Labour plans to spend £1.2tn over the next five years, which forms the basis of this new claim.

But this is problematic because it makes a number of assumptions about what Labour intends to spend before it has published a manifesto.

Not only have those same assumptions been repeated in this analysis, but additional ones have been made about Labour’s tax-raising plans.

For example, the Conservatives say Labour is considering a “homes tax” which would cost households up to £375 more than the current Council Tax system, raising an extra £10.2bn.

However, this seems to be based on a policy-proposal document put forward by Guardian columnist George Monbiot and commissioned for the Labour Party.

The summary of the paper even states: “The following are proposals to the Labour Party, which will consider these as part of its policy development process in advance of the next general election.”

To get to the £2,400 figure, the Conservatives have assumed Labour intends to spend £651bn on day-to-day spending (which comes from their original £1.2tn calculation) over five years.

From there, the Conservatives say that Labour only plans to raise £277bn over the same period, leaving a shortfall of £374bn.

So, if you then divide the shortfall by 31.2m UK taxpayers, you arrive at £2,400 a year each (or £12,000 per taxpayer over five years) to plug the gap.

In summary, this analysis is based on assumptions about money Labour intends to spend but also how much revenue the party intends to raise.

Until the manifestos are published, it is impossible to accurately identify any spending gaps.