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Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party plans to spend 1.2 trillion pounds ($1.5 trillion) over five years, expenditure that would plunge the U.K. into an economic crisis, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said on Sunday.
Javid’s Conservatives released a 36-page document analyzing the main opposition party’s policies. More than 50% of the costings came from Labour’s own figures, Javid said in a BBC TV interview, with the Tories calculating other expenditure in a “reasonable way.” Labour’s finance spokesman, John McDonnell, dismissed the analysis as a “ludicrous piece of Tory fake news.”
“These are eye-watering levels of spending,” Javid told the BBC. The alleged total “is absolutely reckless and will leave this country with an economic crisis within months. Not years, within months.”
After a series of missteps last week, during which a cabinet minister quit and another made insensitive remarks about the victims of a high-rise fire, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are trying to get their election campaign back on to safer ground by attacking Labour’s credibility on the economy. While they still enjoy a double-digit lead in most polls ahead of the Dec. 12 general election, Labour has gained some ground.
Labour’s electoral manifesto from 2017 would cost the country 611 billion pounds over five years, and the party has made an additional 587 billion of promises since then, according to the Tory analysis. It said Labour would increase government spending by 30%, or an extra 650 million pounds a day.
“This ludicrous piece of Tory fake news is an incompetent mishmash of debunked estimates and bad maths,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Labour will tax the rich to pay for things everyone needs and deserves, like decent housing, health care and support for our children.”
McDonnell told the Independent on Sunday that a Labour government would test out the idea of a universal basic income in a pilot program, and suggested that expansion of Heathrow would be blocked.
The Tory analysis includes the cost of abolishing private schools -- which Labour has indicated won’t be in its manifesto -- and suggests the party would implement all of its policies from day one.
Labour plans to nationalize water and energy utilities, the railways and Royal Mail. It’s also proposed a four-day working week and setting up a National Investment Bank. McDonnell promised that Labour would publish a fully costed manifesto later in the campaign. It’s something his party did in the 2017 general election – and the Tories didn’t.
Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng earlier declined in a Sky News interview to provide an equivalent figure for Conservative spending plans. Javid declined to say what taxation policies his party would pursue, promising to outline them later in the campaign. “I believe in low taxes; I believe people should keep more of their own money,” he said.
Pressed to reveal the cost to the economy of Johnson’s Brexit deal, the chancellor declined to provide a figure, but also rejected year-old government forecasts that a similar plan would add 72 billion pounds to government borrowing. “That’s not right,” he said. He pointed to Bank of England analysis last week that showed “growth every year” based on Johnson’s deal being enacted.
In the past week, both the Conservative and Labour campaigns have suffered blows. Corbyn was deemed “not fit to run the country” by Ian Austin, a former Labour Party member of parliament who urged voters to support Johnson. Another blow came from the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, which ran a front page article describing Corbyn as an anti-Semite.
Over the weekend, at least three polls gave the Tories a double-digit lead over Labour, while a fourth put the lead at just 8 points. That’s unlikely to trouble Corbyn, who at the outset of the 2017 campaign also lagged the Tories by a double-digit margin before recovering to deprive them of their majority.
The Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, said the country “may well be heading again for a hung parliament” in which a “handful” of seats can make a difference. Her party has reached an electoral pact with two other pro-EU groups, the Liberal Democrats and the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru party, which has seen two of the parties stand aside in 60 seats nationwide.
On the other side of the European debate, Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage challenged Johnson again to form an alliance of their own. Johnson has already rejected overtures from Farage who had set as a condition of any pact that the prime minister should abandon his Brexit deal. But on Sunday, Farage gave Johnson another four days to reach agreement, or he’ll stand Brexit Party candidates in every seat in Great Britain. Tory Brexiteers have expressed concerns that this will split the pro-Brexit vote and allow Labour and other parties to win more seats.
“This is the chance for a Leave alliance to deliver Brexit and finish off Labour for a generation,” Farage told the Sunday Express. “The clock is ticking. Nominations for candidates close this week. After that, the die will be cast.”
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