POLITICS

2015 General Election Campaign Officially On As Tories Release First Advert - But Is It Misleading?

02/01/2015 07:52 GMT | Updated 06/01/2015 09:59 GMT

David Cameron will kick-start the general election year today by promoting the Tories' first campaign poster - with the slogan "Let's Stay on the Road to a Stronger Economy".

But the Prime Minister has previously been criticised for making the poster's final claim, "the deficit halved", as the deficit has only been reduced by half if it is measured as a percentage of GDP. In cash terms the gap between the Government's income and outgoings has gone down by around a third.

The message will appear on billboards up and down the country and depicts a long straight road running through lush green countryside. Listing the Government's achievements, it states "1.75 million more people in work", "760,000 more businesses" and "the deficit halved". Chancellor George Osborne will also be promoting the campaign, touring a business in the West Midlands.

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The Tories' General Election poster could be inaccurate by saying the deficit has halved

In his New Year's missive yesterday, Cameron warned that Britain faced "chaos" if it changed economic course. Supporting Labour would send the country spiralling backwards and jeopardise the recovery, the Prime Minister suggested. In the video, he told voters the country's resolution for 2015 should be to "stick to the plan" to ensure future prosperity.

As the Tories prepare their PR, Ed Balls has attempted to stake out the centre ground as Labour's territory, and dismissed swirling accusations that Labour has shifted to the Left - insisting it is the Tories who have abandoned the political centre ground.

Drawing his own battle lines for the looming election, the shadow chancellor stressed that the party was committed to eradicating the deficit. But he argued that Osborne had lurched to the extreme by proposing drastic shrinkage of public spending.

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An advertising van showing a new poster for the Conservative Party is driven past Big Ben in Westminster, London today

The comments, in an article for the Guardian, appear to be a rebuttal of Tony Blair's Economist interview in which he suggested that Labour had strayed from the centre ground.

The former prime minister has denied he was criticising Ed Miliband, saying he expected the Opposition to win the poll battle in May.

Balls wrote that last month's Autumn Statement had been a "defining moment" - "the day the Chancellor, George Osborne, ceded the political centre ground to Labour".

"While he lashed out at the BBC for reporting the facts, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said these plans would mean 'colossal cuts' to public services and the Office for Budget Responsibility concluded they would take public spending as a share of GDP back to 1930s levels," he said.

"Let me be clear, including to those who would wish it were not so: Labour will need to cut public spending in the next parliament to balance the books. But Ed Miliband and I do not believe a 35% state can be sustained without causing huge damage to our NHS, policing, defence, local services and economic infrastructure."

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Ed Balls has laid out Labour's claim for the centre ground

Balls said Osborne's "increasingly extreme and ideological approach" went "far beyond the necessary task of deficit reduction".

"It is a risky second-term Conservative project to shrink the state - a lurch to the right which has left Labour as the centre-ground alternative," he wrote. "So the economic choice at the election is now stark and clear. Do we adopt a Labour plan to change our economy, so that it works for working people again and to get the deficit down in a tough and balanced way? Or do we carry on with the same failed Tory policies and slash public services to a level of national income last seen in the 1930s?"

Balls said the Chancellor faced a "credibility problem... His original strategy - to balance the books by this year and go into the election having delivered tax cuts - lies in tatters. Instead he has gambled on people supporting a dramatic shrinking of the state and a £7 billion promise of unfunded tax cuts which could be paid for only by another VAT rise or even deeper cuts to public services - or both."

A Conservative Party spokesman said: "Ed Balls is confirming that Labour will borrow more and raise taxes in the next Parliament. That would put our economy at risk and undermine all the progress we have made since Labour's Great Recession. Ed Miliband has no economic plan to secure Britain's future. That's why he is simply not up to the job."