At Labour's first press conference of the general election campaign, Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling and Peter Mandelson issued a stark warning to voters that the Tories' economic plan has the strength of a house of cards which would risk the recovery. They will detail how the key plank of the Conservatives' economic strategy is flawed.
Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, said:
“My aim is to secure the recovery and not put it at risk. Yesterday, the OECD reported that the UK is seeing one of the most robust returns to growth in the developed world. But they also set out that the recovery is fragile and that there are clear risks that must be avoided. So we can be encouraged. But we are not out of the woods. That’s why it’s so important to make the right decisions now.
“We will not see the return to strong growth next year unless we do what is necessary to secure the recovery this year. Get the big decisions wrong now, and we will be paying the price for years to come.
“The Conservatives want to change course. And they base this on the flimsy four page press release they issued the other week. They are not just basing a pre-election tax giveaway on these four pages, but their plans for recovery, their plans for public services and their plans for deficit reduction.
“What the people of our country need to ask themselves is this: do you really want to gamble your economic future on the back of an envelope set of calculations like this?”
Peter Mandelson, Labour's Business Secretary, said:
“In January, David Cameron said that the Conservatives would “tear up” the Government’s spending plans this year, and that it would be “moral cowardice” not to.
“Then, alarmed by the reaction to their proposals, the Conservatives said they’d cut just a bit – maybe £1bn or so.
“Now, at the start of this campaign they have zig-zagged again and ended up at a position where their entire economic strategy depends on the claim that they can find an extra £12bn in efficiency savings – this year, just like that – on top of what the Government is already doing.
“It is a plan with the strength of a house of cards.”
Alistair Darling MP, Labour's Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:
“Last week George Osborne set out his two pronged economic strategy, reducing spending this year, he says, without affecting public services and a NICs change next year.
“Both elements hinge on the Tory claim that they can deliver an additional £12bn of efficiency savings this year.
“That means they are asking people to believe that they can nearly double our savings figure, in one year adding £12bn to the existing £15bn already underway.
“Overall, that’s the equivalent of taking out half the education budget in just one year.
“I agree with the efficiency expert Gerry Grimstone, who in today’s Financial Times described this as “just not credible”.
“The document we are releasing today sets out in detail why the Tories have no credible means for achieving the scale of savings that their economic strategy requires.
“What’s clear is that having spent the last year saying that cutting the deficit was their number one priority, the Tories have thrown caution to the wind and gone for broke.
“And the way they’re going no-one will be surprised if, in the coming days, these fantasy savings will be used again and again to bail out further Tory tax and spending promises.
“If I had announced such an uncosted giveaway in my Budget two weeks ago but was unable to show exactly how I’d pay for it, people would rightly say the plan wasn’t credible.
“And that’s the point. George Osborne and David Cameron are guilty of reckless opportunism.
“George Osborne wants to be Chancellor in four weeks time. What he’s proposed simply isn’t believable. He’s risking the public finances, and the economy, and the country would pay a heavy price.”