ED Miliband turned the tables on the Tories as he launched Labour’s manifesto, guaranteeing every policy was fully costed and promising to cut the deficit every year while branding the Conservatives as “the irresponsible party”.
He accused the Tories of making “unfunded, unfair and unbelievable” promises and said in contrast Labour would operate a “budget responsibility lock” with no additional borrowing required to fund its spending plans and a budget surplus by the end of the parliament.
Among new pledges in the manifesto were a promise to raise the minimum wage to more than £8 by October 2019; a one-year rail fare freeze; and protecting tax credits for working families.
The party also confirmed it would bring back the top 50p tax rate and abolish “non-dom” tax status but pledged no increase to the basic or higher rates of income tax, National Insurance or VAT. Labour also reiterated its plans to ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, freeze energy bills and abolish the bedroom tax.
Mr Miliband said: “This plan shows there is no trade-off between being disciplined and making a difference. It is a manifesto which shows Labour is not only the party of change but the party of responsibility too.”
However, the manifesto launch came as a row raged over comments made by Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy during a TV debate on Sunday, when he said the party would not need to make “further cuts to achieve our spending rules” beyond 2016.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said a Labour government would have to make cuts in “non-protected” areas both north and south of the border.
He said: “I can’t say to Scotland that you’re going to be exempt from spending cuts in the unprotected areas.”
And Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna said: “In terms of the UK budget over the next Parliament there will need to be cuts. The leader of the Scottish Labour Party will not be in charge of the UK budget.”
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon claimed Mr Murphy had been “hung out to dry” by the UK party leadership. She said: “Labour would impose swingeing spending cuts on Scotland and the rest of the UK, carrying on with austerity where the Tories left off – that is the core aspect of the manifesto they have published. It sweeps away Jim Murphy’s pretence, and leaves him devoid of any credibility in this campaign.”
Mr Murphy insisted he and Mr Balls had been clear that a Labour government would “have to make savings” in Scotland and across the UK and the Institute for Fiscal Studies had said there might be no need for cuts beyond those already planned by Labour.