Fraser Nelson

Labour’s spending cuts exposed

Labour's spending cuts exposed
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Darling has now exposed as false the Brown/Balls dividing line of "investment vs cuts". If Labour were to win, he said, the cuts would be worse than anything seen under Thatcher in the 1980s. This is Darling's problem: he's a dreadful liar. The IFS today laid out the scale of the cuts that would happen whoever wins the election, and the below graph is worth reprinting. Overall spending falls 12 percent (once dole and debt interest are taken into account). So when Darling says this is worse than anything in the 1980s, he is simply stating a fact. You'd never catch Balls or Brown doing that, by the way, and I hope that, when either pop up for interview, they will be asked if they agree with their Chancellor's assessment.

The rest of the IFS graph is worth studying for the dire implications for defence, transport etc. The "protected" areas are overseas aid (which is to double, no matter who wins the election), health (also to be protected, no matter who wins), but Labour has added in a 0.7 percent increase in "frontline" school spending - a policy intended to give Ed Balls one of his precious dividing lines (which he loved using with Philip Hammond on Sky yesterday). The Treasury have (surprise, surprise) not costed these, but anyone can do the maths. The IFS did. The dotted blue line is the budget for the "protected" areas put together: a 2.9 percent increase if protected for the life of the parliament. But if they were protected over the parliament, then the political soft targets - policing, defence, transport, justice etc - would have their budgets cut by a mammoth 25 percent.

This is why I think ringfencing - while an attractive option on the campaign trail - is a bad idea for government. It is hard to justify such dichotomies. Why should the DFID budget double, if the defence budget is plunging by a quarter in a time of war? The below chart is one to bear in mind when you hear Balls and Brown (and Toynbee) talking about the "unknown unknowns" which have - deplorably - prevented them from printing a spending review. You can guess the figures. If Labour wins, there will be cuts - and massive ones. It's dishonest to pretend