My Labour opponent has a national Labour Party ad on his website suggesting that David Cameron plans to cut spending by 10 per cent. Gordon Brown tried to make the same charge stick at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.
The truth is these are Gordon Brown's plans.
The Prime Minister would have you believe that Labour will continue to increase spending on public services but it's not true. Don't take my word for it - the Government's own Budget figures prove it.
It is true that under Labour's plans total public spending will continue to increase in cash terms. But once you take into account inflation, they are planning a cut of 0.1 per cent a year from 2011/12 to 2013/14. And when you factor in the ever increasing cost of paying the interest on the huge national debt that Gordon Brown continues to build up, spending on public services will be cut by 2.3 per cent a year. That's just under 7 per cent over three years.
David Cameron has yet to announce Conservative spending plans (he is rightly waiting until much nearer the Election when the situation will be clearer - most economists think the assumptions underpinning the Budget were very optimistic and that the Chancellor will have to downgrade the figures in the autumn). The one thing David has said is that health spending will continue to increase by more than inflation. This would mean larger cuts elsewhere - about 10 per cent over the three year period.
There are two other things that are worth noting. First, Labour has delayed these cuts until after the next General Election - when they expect the Conservatives to be in power and hence to get the blame. Second, they tried to conceal them via a definitional trick but the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies caught them out - if you are interested you can read more here.
I can't be alone in finding this row profoundly depressing. The Prime Minister is planning to fight the next Election not on any positive programme for the future of our country but by accusing his main opponents of proposing something that he himself is planning to do. Is it any wonder he is held in such low regard?
The truth is whoever wins the next Election is going to have to reduce spending on public services. If politicians want to be held in higher regard, they should be honest about that and, as we approach the Election, give people some idea about where they think those cuts should fall. Then people can make an informed choice.