Tories and Labour are to kick off their New Year pre-election campaigns by going to war on health and wealth.
After his controversial poster claiming the Government has halved Britain’s deficit, branded a fib by opponents, David Cameron is claiming Labour would increase the debt interest bill by £13.5bn in the next Parliament.
That is the equivalent of adding 3p to the basic rate of income tax, according to the Conservatives, who say the Treasury has costed Labour’s policies on people’s wealth.
But Labour has gone on the attack on health, claiming the NHS as we know it cannot survive five more years of David Cameron and publishing a 27-page dossier revealing the scale of his broken promises to protect the NHS.
On wealth, the Conservatives claim the Treasury has calculated that Labour’s debt interest bill would rise by £5.7bn alone in 2019-20 and this amount could pay for a 1p reduction in both the basic and higher rates of income tax.
A Number 10 source said: “Britain is on the road to recovery with 1.75 million more people in work, the fastest-growing major advanced economy in 2014 and income tax cut for 26 million people.
“But there is more to do and Ed Miliband would put it all at risk with more spending, more borrowing and more taxes.
“Labour would never tackle our deficit and these new figures show that would cost hardworking taxpayers an extra £13.5bn in debt interest payments alone in the next Parliament.”
But Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, hit back, saying: “David Cameron’s desperate campaign smears and dodgy claims continue to unravel as the Tories have once again got their sums totally wrong.”
Labour’s NHS dossier comes ahead of a major speech by Mr Miliband on Monday attacking Mr Cameron’s health policies.
The dossier reveals that seven out of the 15 patients’ rights enshrined in the NHS constitution have been breached including those setting maximum waiting times of four hours at A&E, 62 days for cancer treatment, and six weeks for diagnostic tests.
Labour claims that if the NHS service standards continue to decline as they have under the Tories in the last four-and-a-half years by 2020 nearly two million people would be waiting longer than four hours at A&E.
It also claims waiting lists would reach four million and over 20 million patients would be left waiting for a week or more to see a GP or unable to get one at all.
In a message to activists, Labour’s campaign chief Douglas Alexander says: “Another five years of this rotten Government could put us on course for a doubling of the scale of privatisation as competition is put before patient care.
“That is why the NHS is on the ballot paper at this election. And that is why we will work morning, noon and night to save it.”
But a Conservative spokesman countered: “We can only have a strong NHS by staying on the road to a stronger economy.
“Our long-term economic plan has meant we are able to increase the NHS budget in the next Parliament to help fund Simon Stevens’ Five Year Forward View.
“This plan will help meet growing demand, give the public better access to GPs and improve preventative care – and it is widely supported in the NHS.”