Please, God, not three months of this!
I am absolutely furious having read Labour's latest "debate" on Conservative spending plans. If this is the standard of drivel which we will have to put up with over the next months then I am going to have to zone out of the whole campaign.
John Prescott has said in response to the Conservative plans to tackle council tax that "None of the Tories' sums add up so today's promises from the Tories are not worth the paper they are written on. The only guaranteed cuts you will get from the Tories are cuts to frontline services such as schools, hospitals and the police.The Tories have committed to cut £35 billion from public spending. In addition, they have made spending commitments totalling well over £15 billion that could only be funded from cuts elsewhere. So the Tories have to find £50 billion worth of cuts to pay for their tax and spending plans. "
Now excuse me for one moment, but it seems to be Mr Prescott's sums that don't add up. If the Conservative Party has to make £35 billion in savings/cuts then that is £35 billion not £50 billion. The fact they are not promising £35 billion in tax cuts makes it unnecessary to raise an extra £15 billion through cuts! Has he just pulled this £15 billion figure from mid-air? Applying this logic to Labour then they would have to find at least £31 billion in cuts... I can understand how it might be a valid line of attack to question whether the James Report can be realised and to ask what would happen if full savings couldn't be made, but to conjure up figures for apparent costs out of nowhere and then to assume no savings will be made under it is just plain preposterous and disgraceful politics.
Then, to sum up, he hits us with the most absurd line of all - "The truth is none of the Tories' sums add up and today's promises from the Tories are not worth the paper they are written on. The Tories have to find more than £50 billion of cuts to pay for the tax and spending commitments they have made – a scale of cuts that could only be found through frontline cuts to schools, hospitals, the police and vital public services."
Erm...the exact spending commitments which he reckons the Tories will need to make cuts to pay for are for investment in frontline spending on schools, hospitals and the police! What he won't do, of course, is face up to the fact that there might be a debate over whether more is necessarily better in terms of public spending. That is a very interesting debate for the Tories, and in my view is the 'accepted norm' which they must shatter to get back into power. With Mr Howard's short leadership it is not one, however, onto which they can hope to twist debate during this election campaign.