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Saturday 16 December 2017

Labour closes gap on the Lib Dems in opinion polls

Gavin Cordon in London

Labour has caught up with the Liberal Democrats while the Conservatives are maintaining a narrow lead, according to a new British opinion poll.

ComRes carried out the poll for 'the Independent' and ITV News, which put Labour on 29pc, one point up on yesterday and level-pegging with the Lib Dems, who are down two.

The Tories are up one on 33pc -- suggesting strongly that Britain is still heading for a hung parliament on May 6.

With the pressure mounting on all of the party leaders, they struggled to gain advantage on spending-cut proposals last night.

But Britain is facing cuts on a scale unseen for a generation whoever wins the election, an influential think-tank warned yesterday as it accused the main parties of failing to come clean with voters.


In a scathing report, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the public were being denied an "informed choice" because none of the parties had been prepared to set out their plans for tackling the record £163bn (€188bn) deficit.

IFS director Robert Chote said that Labour, as the party of government, was "primarily" to blame because it had refused to carry out a spending review ahead of the election on May 6.

However, he was also critical of the Conservative plans to start spending cuts this year when the recovery remained "fragile", even though it would make little overall difference to the long-term outlook for the public finances.

All parties, he suggested, were being "overambitious" in their claims to be able to cut spending and warned that whoever formed the next government would have to rely far more on tax increases than so far admitted.

The failure of any of the main parties to come forward with significant cuts to welfare payments meant that they would have to cut deep into public services, he added.

"Over the four years starting next year, Labour and the Liberal Democrats would need to deliver the deepest sustained cuts to spending on public services since the late 1970s," he said.

"While, starting this year, the Conservatives would need to deliver cuts to spending on public services that have not been delivered over any five-year period since the Second World War."

The report was met by a slew of claims and counter-claims among the parties, with Labour insisting it had a plan in place to halve the deficit, the Tories claiming taxes would have to rise faster under Labour and the Lib Dems, and the Lib Dems arguing that the Tories could not afford their promised national insurance cut.

Launching the IFS analysis, Mr Chote said none of the parties had come "anywhere close" to identifying the savings they needed, with the Lib Dems having come up with about a quarter, the Tories less than a fifth, and Labour an eighth.

"For the voters to be able to make an informed choice in this election, the parties need to explain clearly how they would go about achieving it," he said.

"The opposition parties have not even set out their fiscal targets clearly. The blame for that lies primarily with the government for refusing to hold a spending review before the election."

According the IFS estimates, Labour will have to find further tax rises worth £7bn (€8.1bn) a year to meet their plans, while the Tories would need an extra £3bn (€3.47bn).

While the Conservatives would need to find cuts of nearly £64bn a year by 2014-15, Labour would need almost £51bn and the Lib Dems almost £47bn.

Labour and the Lib Dems aimed to start reining back spending next year, saving £71bn a year by 2016-17, while the Tories would begin cutting this year, and complete the process a year earlier.

Irish Independent

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