Shadow Chancellor George Osborne will today promise to get tough on government spending:
"Let me make this clear to you, to my colleagues, and to my party. Both David Cameron and I believe that the Conservative Party will never win elections by promising to spend more than Labour. And we will never persuade people that we have better long term solutions to issues like our national defence or our public services if those solutions simply involve spending more money. We need a different approach."
He then goes on to promise to follow three tests for ‘Sound Money’ – sound money, he says, "being the oldest Conservative principle of all":
"First, the Stability Test. Economic stability will always be our priority. We will not cut taxes if that puts at risk the low interest rates and low inflation that families and businesses depend on. Investment in the NHS and our public services is founded on a stable economy so that must always come first. So, given the current poor state of the public finances, we will not be making up front promises of overall tax cuts at the election – promises I couldn’t be sure I could keep. Any specific tax reductions we propose – for example fulfilling our commitment to recognize marriage – will be paid for by specific tax increases on things like pollution.
Second, the Sharing the Proceeds Test. Over time and only when the country can afford it, we will move in the direction of lower taxes. We will do this by sharing the proceeds of economic growth between lower taxes and well-funded public services. Over a cycle, the economy will grow faster than the state and the share of national income spent by government will fall.
Third, today I am for the first time announcing our ‘Manifesto Test’ on spending: no policy proposals with implications for public spending are Conservative Party policy until they have been approved by me and by David Cameron, passed by the Shadow Cabinet, and appear in our draft manifesto. Let me make this absolutely clear: the Conservative Party has no commitments to spend more money in any department than Labour is currently planning to spend."
The Telegraph reports that George Osborne’s intervention follows some embarrassment at Labour claims that Tory spending promises – on extra drug rehab places, the border police force and tax relief for marriage – will costs taxpayers between £8bn and £21bn.