What plans do the Tories and Labour have to tackle the cost of living crisis?

The cost of living crisis is likely to dominate the political debate for the foreseeable future. Credit: PA

It's hard to overstate the extent to which the "cost of living" will dominate politics in the run up to the local elections and beyond.

Internal polling for the Labour Party has found that it is the number one issue for voters by a mile, well ahead of anything else, including the economy more generally and the NHS.

That is why Keir Starmer was in Dewsbury today, and will be all over the country, talking to people who are struggling to heat their homes.

Keir Starmer meets local residents at Thrive at Connect during his visit to Dewsbury. Credit: PA

Labour believes it's idea of a windfall tax on energy companies, to take £600 off energy bills, is hugely popular and will be a massive headache for the Tories who argue that such a policy could deter investment.

But the Conservatives know this could get difficult for them. After all, they are looking at similar polling figures, and hearing similar responses in their own focus groups.

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That is why - when Boris Johnson chaired Cabinet this week - it was the first issue he raised.

He argued that the government had a "positive story" to tell.

His language in Cabinet gives us a clue to the likely emphasis from his party as it prepares for the elections - not on new policy, but on an attempt to better sell existing policy.

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I understand the PM told colleagues that raising of the income threshold at which national insurance contributions kick in should be sold as the biggest tax cut in a decade.

His advisers are pointing to today's uprating of the minimum wage, describing it as a pay increase for 2.5 million people.

There is also frustration in the Treasury that when commentators on the left and right slam the recent Spring statement, they do not consider previously announced measures, like the council tax rebate and cut to the universal credit taper rate.

None of that takes away the context in which those arguments are being made - raging inflation driving up energy bills and petrol prices, and, despite the threshold police, a NICs rise to pay for health backlogs and eventually social care.

But the government is unlikely to go beyond the measures it has already announced, for now.

There are a few reasons for that, but the most important probably centres on the issue of borrowing.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak - but also a number of others around the Cabinet table - are determined that the party does not borrow more in order to fund giveaways.

Rishi Sunak is determined that the Conservatives do not borrow more in order to fund giveaways. Credit: PA

One senior source told me they had to cushion the pain for people right now, but also have enough leftover to fix the longer term causes of that pain.

They pointed to next week's energy security paper. In meetings with private sector figures, Mr Johnson has argued that a new push on off shore wind and nuclear (as well as getting more oil and gas out of the North Sea in the short run), should be seen as similar to the vaccine programme.

The hope is that this will ultimately make us less dependent on the volatility of oil and gas - but it won't do anything for our bills in the short term.