A ROW over a dossier produced by the Tories on Labour’s spending plans dominated the opening salvoes of the election campaign as the two parties put credibility over public finances at the heart of their pitches to voters.
With four months to go to the general election in May, Tory Chancellor George Osborne produced a paper claiming that Labour was going into the election with £20.7 billion of unfunded spending cuts.
But Labour immediately hit back claiming that the Chancellor had produced “a dodgy dossier” which listed spending commitments it had never made.
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The row came on the day that Labour leader Ed Miliband launched his election campaign telling voters that they face “a once in a generation” chance to rebuild the country.
In what was billed as the formal launch of a four-month battle to win back power at Westminster at the ballot box in May, Mr Miliband said working people were on course to end up worse-off at the end of a government than before for the first time since the 1920s.
The Labour leader told a rally in Salford that his party offered “hope not falsehoods” as he dismissed the Tory claims about unfunded spending commitments.
Labour would make cuts to public spending, he said, but deal with the deficit “responsibly” - including through higher taxes on the wealthiest - but had made no promises funded by additional borrowing,
Responding to the threat from Ukip, he insisted that exiting the European Union would be a “dramatic mistake” for the UK and promised “fair rules” on immigration.
“In the next four months, there will be the usual sound and fury,” he said.
“But it will all actually come down to something rather simple.
“Who we are. How we want to live together. And how we succeed as a nation.
“This is nothing less than a once-in-a-generation fight about who our country works for.
“It is a choice between a Tory plan where only a few at the top can succeed and our public services are threatened.
“Or a Labour plan that puts working people first, deals with the deficit and protects our NHS.”
Mr Miliband rejected the suggestion that he was “scaremongering” over the NHS, following a question from the BBC’s Norman Smith, who was loudly heckled by activists.
The Labour leader said: “I think there is real fear about the fact that we transformed the NHS in government, it’s already gone backwards. If you are proposing as a party to go back to 1930s levels of public spending as a share of national income ... then I think there is real fear about what that means for the NHS and other vital public services.”
But the Chancellor, who lined up with Cabinet colleagues including William Hague and Theresa May to launch his attack on Labour’s economic credibility, said only the Conservative plan would safeguard public services.
“You cannot have a strong NHS, good schools, proper law and order without a strong economy,” the Chancellor said.
Speaking at a Westminster press conference, Mr Osborne said: “The evidence produced today shows the Labour Party have not demonstrated the fiscal discipline or economic competence that earns an opposition the credibility to form a government.
“The evidence shows they are a risk to economic recovery”.
But the claims made in the A Cost Analysis Of Labour Party Policy report quickly came under intense scrutiny after it emerged that some of the figures were based on a presumption that where Labour had criticised a Government policy, they would reverse it.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: “This dodgy Tory dossier is riddled with untruths and errors on every page.”
But Mr Osborne dismissed suggestions that the document was nonsense, telling reporters: “We have been very clear that the commitments we used are ones which are either in Labour policy documents or party conferences.
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