David Cameron appears on The Andrew Marr show this morning.
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How Cameron misled on cuts in his Marr interview

The PM is giving the false impression that most of the pain lies in the past. 

In January 2010, after George Osborne's promise of an "age of austerity" had dented the Tories' popularity, David Cameron reassured voters that there would be no "swingeing cuts" in the first year of a Conservative government. Today, at the start of another election year, he sought to play a similar role. After Labour's repeated attacks on the Tories for planning "extreme" and "ideological" cuts (that would reduce spending to its lowest level as a share of GDP since the 1930s), he insisted on the Marr show that his party's plans were "moderate, sensible and reasonable". He rejected the OBR's statement that 60 per cent of the cuts are still to come and argued that £12bn of reductions to welfare would limit the damage to departments. 

Cameron's pitch may have been politically astute, but it was riddled with evasions. He rejected the OBR figure on the grounds that it ignored the cuts that Osborne had already announced for 2015-16. But while these cuts have been set out, not a single one has been implemented. Cameron is giving the false impression that the pain already lies in the past.

He went on to argue that £12bn of welfare cuts would prevent some departments being reduced by as much as 40 per cent by the end of the next parliament. But what he didn't say is that these reductions will merely ensure the Tories can maintain cuts at their current pace (as opposed to accelerating them). As the Resolution Foundation has outlined, this means a cumulative cut of 42.4 per cent to local government, 46.5 per cent to the Home Office, 55.1 per cent to Work and Pensions, 58.6 per cent to Communities and 64.8 per cent to the Foreign Office (Defence would be cut by 34.8 per cent and BIS by 35.7 per cent). The Tories' pledge to eliminate the deficit by the end of the next parliament and to do so without any further tax rises explains why the reductions are so deep. 

And, although the Conservatives often seek to give the reverse impression, just £3.5bn of the £12bn welfare cuts they plan to impose have been announced (in the form of a promised two-year freeze on benefit increases). While further measures are expected to be set out in the party's manifesto (such as limiting child benefit to two/three/four children), it's an open question as to whether we'll get all £12bn by 7 May 2015. 

Meanwhile, Labour has hit back at Cameron's claim in today's Sunday Times that its plans would mean £13.5bn extra in debt interest payments over the next parliament. It says that the Treasury analysis:

1. Wrongly assumes that Labour would not eliminate the current deficit until 2020/21, when it has said it would do so no later than 2019/20.

2. Is based on economic forecasts from a year ago, not the 2014 Autumn Statement. 

3. Involves "double counting" of debt interest payments through misuse of the OBR's ready reckoner.

Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said:

David Cameron's desperate campaign smears and dodgy claims continue to unravel as the Tories have once again got their sums totally wrong. These figures are based on false assumptions about Labour's plans and out of date economic forecasts.

Labour will cut the deficit each year, and get the current budget into surplus and national debt falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament. That means we will do this by 2019/20 at the latest and earlier if we can - not by 2020/21 as the Tories falsely claim.

Labour's tough but balanced plan contrasts with George Osborne's increasingly risky and extreme approach. The Tories are desperately trying to distract attention from their plans which the OBR says will slash public spending to a share of national income last seen in the 1930s.

David Cameron has also made over £7 billion of unfunded tax promises. These could only be paid for by another Tory rise in VAT, even deeper cuts to public services or both.

Nor can the Tories hide from the fact they have borrowed over £200 billion more than planned because of their failure to deliver rising living standards.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo:Getty
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Why isn't Labour putting forward Corbynite candidates?

Despite his successes as a candidate, the organisational victories have gone the way of Corbyn's opponents. 

The contest changes, but the result remains the same: Jeremy Corbyn’s preferred candidate defeated in a parliamentary selection. Afzhal Khan is Labour’s candidate in the Manchester Gorton by-election and the overwhelming favourite to be the seat’s next MP.

Although Khan, an MEP, was one of  the minority of Labour’s European MPs to dissent from a letter from the European parliamentary Labour party calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go in the summer of 2016, he backed Andy Burnham and Tom Watson in 2015, and it is widely believed, fairly or unfairly, that Khan had, as one local activist put it, “the brains to know which way the wind was blowing” rather than being a pukka Corbynite.

For the leader’s office, it was a double defeat;  their preferred candidate, Sam Wheeler, was kept off the longlist, when the party’s Corbynsceptics allied with the party’s BAME leadership to draw up an all ethnic minority shortlist, and Yasmine Dar, their back-up option, was narrowly defeated by Khan among members in Manchester Gorton.

But even when the leadership has got its preferred candidate to the contest, they have been defeated. That even happened in Copeland, where the shortlist was drawn up by Corbynites and designed to advantage Rachel Holliday, the leader’s office preferred candidate.

Why does the Labour left keep losing? Supporters combination of bad luck and bad decisions for the defeat.

In Oldham West, where Michael Meacher, a committed supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s, was succeeded by Jim McMahon, who voted for Liz Kendall, McMahon was seen to be so far ahead that they had no credible chance of stopping him. Rosena Allin-Khan was a near-perfect candidate to hold the seat of Tooting: a doctor at the local hospital, the seat’s largest employer, with links to both the Polish and Pakistani communities that make up the seat’s biggest minority blocs.  Gillian Troughton, who won the Copeland selection, is a respected local councillor.

But the leadership has also made bad decisions, some claim.  The failure to get a candidate in Manchester Gorton was particularly egregious, as one trade unionist puts it: “We all knew that Gerald was not going to make it [until 2020], they had a local boy with good connections to the trade unions, that contest should have been theirs for the taking”. Instead, they lost control of the selection panel because Jeremy Corbyn missed an NEC meeting – the NEC is hung at present as the Corbynsceptics sacrificed their majority of one to retain the chair – and with it their best chance of taking the seat.

Others close to the leadership point out that for the first year of Corbyn’s leadership, the leader’s office was more preoccupied with the struggle for survival than it was with getting more of its people in. Decisions in by-elections were taken on the hop and often in a way that led to problems later down the line. It made sense to keep Mo Azam, from the party’s left, off the shortlist in Oldham West when Labour MPs were worried for their own seats and about the Ukip effect if Labour selected a minority candidate. But that enraged the party’s minority politicians and led directly to the all-ethnic-minority shortlist in Manchester Gorton.

They also point out that the party's councillor base, from where many candidates are drawn, is still largely Corbynsceptic, though they hope that this will change in the next round of local government selections. (Councillors must go through a reselection process at every election.)

But the biggest shift has very little to do with the Labour leadership. The big victories for the Labour left in internal battles under Ed Miliband were the result of Unite and the GMB working together. Now they are, for various reasons, at odds and the GMB has proven significantly better at working shortlists and campaigning for its members to become MPs.  That helps Corbynsceptics. “The reason why so many of the unions supported Jeremy the first time,” one senior Corbynite argues, “Is they wanted to move the Labour party a little bit to the left. They didn’t want a socialist transformation of the Labour party. And actually if you look at the people getting selected they are not Corbynites, but they are not Blairites either, and that’s what the unions wanted.”

Regardless of why, it means that, two years into Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour left finds itself smaller in parliament than it was at the beginning.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.