James Forsyth

The shape of things to come | 4 January 2010

The shape of things to come | 4 January 2010
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Today is a taste of how politics is going to be until the election: competing Labour and Tory events, claim and counter claim. Alistair Darling kicked off proceedings with an event setting out the supposed £34 billion black hole in the Tory’s plans for the public finances. This took some chutzpah considering how vague Labour’s own spending plans are, there are currently no departmental budgets, and how big the balck hole in Labour’s plans is, remember how Brown implied on Marr yesterday that tax rises on the rich, the National Insurance hike and lower than expected unemployment would be able to take most of the strain of halving the £178bn deficit.

Judging from the questions at the Darling event, the press aren’t buying Labour’s line. They were nearly all of the ‘first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye’ variety. Revealing, when Darling was challenged by Nick Robinson to name a single department that would be exempt from cuts under a re-elected Labour government, Darling dodged the question.

One thing that the conference did show is how Labour intends to use the advantages of incumbency. Darling kept referring to the PBR as the baseline and we can expect Labour to carry on announcing new things and then demanding that the Tories show how they would match Labour’s commitments, commitments Labour make knowing that they almost certainly won’t have to implement them.