Labour have refused to provide any detailed alternative to the Coalition’s tax and spending plans. They have also implied that during their recent period in government that nobody challenged their irresponsible tax and spending plans. This is simply a lie. Not only did the IFS [Institute for Fiscal Studies] explain their irresponsibility as far back as 2003 [PDF], but so did the Liberal Democrats.
There’s an easy way to test how responsible we were while we were in opposition. Every year since 1992 the Liberal Democrats have produced an Alternative Budget setting out our alternative to the government’s tax and spending plans, as well as fully costed manifestos in each election.
These Alternative Budgets show that in every year from 2001 onwards, our tax and spending plans led to a smaller deficit than Labour planned. In the most recent General Election [PDF] our plans were for a cut in the deficit of over £8bn a year above Labour plans. In the 2005 General Election we were planning to cut the deficit by £5bn a year. Even back as far as 2001 we were planning to cut the deficit by hundreds of millions of pounds a year. All of this was in a political climate dominated by Labour’s claims that Gordon Brown was fiscally responsible, when there was no political pressure for the Liberal Democrats to be as responsible as we were.
It’s easy to say that you are going to cut the deficit in principle. What’s difficult is to have the courage to make the difficult decisions to cut spending, avoid populist promises and, where necessary, increase taxes. If Labour are against all the cuts, then they should explain how they will pay for their spending spree. If they are in favour of some of the cuts, then it’s time they told us which ones.