Ask the Chancellors TV debate: Cable triumphs

Vince Cable wins by a nose in Channel 4's "love-in" with just over a third of the online vote and mo

At close of play in Channel 4's Ask the Chancellors, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson had edged the online vote with 36 per cent over Alistair Darling and George Osborne, jointly tied on 32 per cent.

Cable got laughs, calling the live debate a "love-in" and inviting the audience to ridicule a nervy Osborne's double standards on the savings set out in the Budget: last week they were pie in the sky, this week they are a damning indictment of government policy.

He also had the lion's share of catchphrases, calling out the "prima donnas in financial speculation" and "pinstripe Scargills" among the super-rich who are holding the country to ransom over the highest rate of tax.

This was hardly suprising -- as the public's choice for chancellor, Cable was always going to have the best of it. What was interesting was Osborne's weak showing, as he failed to land a solid punch on the government that had managed the finances for more than ten years preceding the recession.

Instead, the older men ganged up on the shaky Tory shadow chancellor, who could only manage weak references to the national debt in a discussion of the causes of the financial crisis.

Darling called out Osborne on National Insurance, accusing the shadow chancellor of "taking a terrible risk with the economy", and of being "irresponsible" and guilty of "poor, poor judgement". He even got a laugh from the derisory question, "What is the Conservative position?"

And he came back quickly on the accusation of stealing Conservative policy on stamp duty, saying, "Nothing like cross-party co-operation, George."

Verdict? Sorry, Dave, you're on your own.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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