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Office of Budget Responsibility should be tasked to assess Parties' spending plans

In case you hadnt noticed there is going to be a General Election this year… 

The main parties kicked off the New Year with campaigns and posters. If these early examples are anything to go by were in for a long few months, writes Labour Parliamentary Candidate, David Ellesmere.

The Conservatives launched a poster which they said showed the road to recoverybut was quickly dubbed the road to nowherewhen it turned out the road was in Germany and the potholes had been airbrushed out. 

What was more controversial about it was the claim that the Government has halved the deficit. Leaving aside the fact that George Osborne originally promised to eliminatethe deficit by 2015, at the height of the recession the deficit was £153bn. It is now £91bn. 

It doesnt take a mathematical genius to work out that if the Government had reduced the deficit by half then they would actually be borrowing around £15bn a year less than they currently are. 

Even more outrageous were the claims Conservative ministers made a few days later that Labour had made uncostedpromises of £21bn. This had been worked out, the ministers said, by politically neutral Treasury civil servants so it must be true. 

The claims didnt stand up to 5 seconds scrutiny. They included things that are no longer Labour Party policy or indeed never were. If someone from the Labour Party criticised a cut at some point they have claimed that the cut would be reversed with a gold-plated solution.

It then turned out that the assumptions in the document had been provided by Conservative Party researchers. All the politically neutral civil servants had done is say what these assumptions would cost if they were true. Which they are not.

This is not good. How can voters make an informed choice when dubious claims like these are being bandied about?

Labour has long called for the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to audit all the partieselection manifestos and say whether they add up, but George Osborne has refused.

Now we know why. It would stop him making these dodgy claims. It would be bad for him but good for democracy.

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