Darling's most damaging claim

His claim that Labour had no "credible economic policy" is a gift to George Osborne.

Of all the claims from Alistair Darling's memoir (£), it is his assertion that Labour went into the last election without a "credible economic policy" that is most damaging for the party. Darling all but accuses Gordon Brown of deficit denial for refusing to accept the level of cuts and tax rises needed to ensure fiscal sustainability. Christmas has come early for George Osborne.

Darling told Andrew Marr this morning: "You need a credible economic policy. It really hampered us at the election". Some would reply that a party without a credible economic policy is unfit to govern and it was notable that Darling refused to dissent when Marr suggested as much.

The former chancellor is right to argue that Labour's economic policy wasn't credible but for the wrong reasons. Rather than pandering to Conservative demands for savage cuts, the party should have offered a distincitve economic policy based on investment to stimulate growth and reduce the deficit. It should have argued for more targeted tax rises on the wealthiest in our society. The Brown government's most popular policies were the bankers' bonus tax and the 50p tax rate. It is hardly surprising that when offered a choice between Labour cuts and Tory cuts, voters decided they wanted the real thing.

In agreeing to stick to Darling's pledge to halve the deficit over four years (while replacing a cuts-tax ratio of 67:33 with one of 60:40), Ed Miliband has met the former chancellor's definition of a credible policy. But that won't stop the Tories from claiming that Labour's policy is as uncredible now as it was then.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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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