Largely unnoticed by the media, Ed Miliband has made his first major spending commitment. Challenged by Nick Robinson on whether a Labour government would consider making cuts to the NHS, Miliband replied:
We're not going to be cutting the health service, I'm very clear about that. We will always be protecting the health service and will always make it a priority.
His decision to rule out cuts to the NHS, even at this early stage, is unsurprising. Polls show that it is the most popular spending area with voters and the above-average rate of inflation in the health service means it frequently requires real-terms rises just to stand still. With David Cameron and George Osborne making it clear that the Tories would continue to ring-fence the NHS after 2015, Labour has no intention of finding itself on the wrong side of this political divide.
Miliband's pledge means that the Lib Dems are, once again, likely to go into the general election as the only party that would consider making cuts to health. Ahead of the 2015-16 Spending Review in June, Vince Cable has continued to argue that ring-fencing is not "a very sensible" long-term approach.