Labour pokes at the Tories’ £22 bill gap

By Ian Dunt

Tory sums leave a “£22 billion credibility gap”, senior Labour figures said in a fierce and highly-charged press conference this morning.

The press conference, which featured Labour’s top finance team – Peter Mandelson, business secretary, Liam Byrne, chief secretary to the Treasury, and Alistair Darling, chancellor – suggests a new concentration on deficiencies in the Tories’ economic strategy.

“[David] Cameron and [George] Osborne are peddling a deception on businesses up and down the country and it’s one they are aware of,” Lord Mandelson said.

“You can’t claim you’re going to reduce taxes, reduce the deficit, and protect front line services. Something’s got to go.”

The Tories have come in for substantial criticism from other parties and much of the media for announcing their plan to scrap the planned national insurance (NI) rises.

The policy contrasted badly with the party’s professed commitment to reducing the deficit, and many commentators suggested it was a product of desperate electioneering as the party’s poll lead crumbled.

The Labour attack also coincides with a renewed impression that George Osborne is the weak link in the Conservative machine, with many voters thought to be put off by his youth and inexperience.

“To even begin the discussion the Tories have find a way to pay for their extra spending pledges and tax cuts,” Mr Darling said this morning.

“The challenge for David Cameron is to stand up and tell people which of these promises he’ll stand by.

“If he fails to do so the Conservatives will have no credibility left.”

The Tory agenda would probably lead to a rise in VAT, Labour sugggested.