On Monday, Ed Miliband kicked off his general election campaign with a speech in Salford. One of the lines pre-briefed to the press was that Labour would "offer hope, not falsehoods". Ed then stood up and read out a long list of glaring falsehoods.
We heard that the under the Conservatives, "the NHS as we know it just won't be there" in five years' time'. In fact we've committed to protecting health spending and will continue to invest more, including for seven day GP access.
We heard that the government's tuition fee reforms were putting young people off university. Yet Ucas figures show that a record number are now applying, including a record number from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Nor did Ed take the opportunity to say what he would do differently.
But the most serious falsehood was the claim that 'none' of Labour's election proposals will be 'funded by additional borrowing'. In fact an analysis published today, based on publicly available data and official Treasury costings, shows that Labour's plans would increase borrowing and debt by £20.7billion in the first year of the next Parliament. That's £1,200 for every working household in this country, a massive cheque drawn on the next generation.
Back in June 2013 Ed made a solemn pledge, repeated today, that he would make no unfunded spending commitments at the General Election. Since then Labour frontbenchers have made £23.26billion of spending commitments for 2015/16 but only outlined £2.52billion in tax raising plans for the same year.
Among other things we've heard about plans to 'guarantee a job' for everyone under 25, plans to reverse cuts to local authority budgets and plans to set up a small business quango, but with four months until a General Election there is no overarching plan about how to fund it all.
Take extra funding for apprenticeships, which Treasury officials calculate would cost £710 million in the first year alone. I'm all in favour of more apprenticeships, the problem is that Labour haven't told the country how they would pay for them. By contrast we've committed to three million more apprenticeships in the next Parliament, at a cost of £1billion, paid for by lowering the welfare cap and limiting young people's access to housing benefit. There's the contrast: Conservatives have a serious, fully-costed plan to deliver skills and strengthen work incentives, Labour have a vague ambition which could only be paid for by growing the deficit.
Even Labour's tax raising plans don't stand up to serious scrutiny.
Take their flagship proposal on the NHS, an extra £2billion for 2015/16, funded by a tax on high value properties. They're planning to spend those revenues straight after the election, but the complexity of bringing in a new tax based on self-assessment means it would actually take a full financial year to raise the money. This means the NHS would have to find the money from elsewhere until 2016/17. And again they haven't levelled with the public about where that money would come from.
Once again Ed Miliband has shown that he is incapable of laying out the tough decisions needed to deal with the deficit and secure the recovery. Nor does he understand just what is at stake.
In his speech Ed claimed that the recovery was built on the success of the people he calls 'the few'. What an insult to the 1.75million people who have found work since 2010, or 670,000 overwhelmingly small new businesses that have been created under this Government. They are the reason that Britain did what Labour said was impossible, growing faster than any other major advanced economy last year. It is their livelihoods that would be put at risk if Labour got back into office. Literally and metaphorically, Britain can't afford another Labour Government.
Labour are now briefing that criticism of certain Coalition cuts does not amount to a pledge to reverse them. If that's the case then it is now incumbent on Labour, in an election year, to be straight with the public about which cuts they would reverse and which they would keep in place. Labour have opposed every single one of the Government's cuts over the last five years, so the public could be forgiven for thinking they meant they meant what they said.