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The Conservative manifesto: Oven-ready but more modest fare

The launch of the Labour manifesto was an all singing and dancing affair, full of big, radical policy announcements.

Today the Conservatives offered up a more modest production, which is not necessarily a bad thing and most definitely means we face a genuine choice at the election.

The Conservatives' tax and spending plans are on an utterly different scale and of a different scope to those of Labour and even the Liberal Democrats.

Day to day spending will rise by an extra £2.9 billion a year by the end of the next parliament if the Conservatives form the next government.

Labour plans an increase of £95 billion a year (if we include the party’s abrupt decision to compensate the Women Against State Pension Injustice).

The Conservatives offered up a more modest production than Labour. Credit: PA

The Conservatives will increase spending on the NHS and on education but not as much as the Lib Dems or Labour.

They plan to spend slightly more on childcare but nothing like as much as the Lib Dems or Labour.

The numbers included in the Conservative manifesto suggest that for many government departments the boost to spending on public services next year will be a one off.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculates that, outside of health, spending will be almost 15% lower in real terms in 2023/24 than it was in 2010.

How health spending plans could pan out. Credit: IFS

On capital spending the Conservatives are pledging £20 billion a year.

That’s more ambitious but still not in the same ballpark as Labour (£55 billion).

On tax, Boris Johnson fought the leadership campaign promising big cuts.

A cut to National Insurance - worth £85 a year to the average person in work and £40 a year to the poorest households - makes the manifesto.

His promise to cut income tax for high earners does not.

The Tory plans would see spending increase but not by as much as Labour's plans. Credit: Resolution Foundation

Raising the 40% tax threshold from £50,000 to £80,000 is not even an “ambition”. It is missing, presumably dead in ditch.

Mr Johnson is promising not to raise income tax, along with VAT and National Insurance, for the duration of the next parliament.

“[The Triple-Lock] is the kind of promise that can come back to haunt you later on, if you do need to raise tax revenues.” Says Paul Johnson, IFS Director.

“To tie a chancellor's hands on the three biggest revenue-raisers that we have, it came back and bit Philip Hammond, if we remember, back in 2017 when there was a similar pledge and he wanted to raise National Insurance for the self-employed, and he couldn't.

"This is something that future chancellors may wish was not in the manifesto.”

Boris Johnson says he won't raise income tax. Credit: PA

The Conservatives' spending plans will enlarge the state, in a way that is pretty radical by the party’s historical standards.

The Resolution Foundation calculates public spending would rise to 41% of national income.

“The biggest increase in the size of the state under a Conservative Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan,” according to chief executive, Torsten Bell.

Labour would go much further, spending 46% of GDP.

Mr Johnson will tell you that his plans are responsible and realistic. They also depend on Brexit being smooth.

If we leave the European Union without having secured a trade deal by the end of 2020, which the Conservatives are prepared to consider, then we would begin trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

The independent analysis suggests that, in the event of No Deal, economic growth would be significantly damaged, ushering in a return to austerity.