Tories silent over total election spend pledge after attack on Labour

A Conservative minister has refused to reveal how much taxpayers’ money the party is pledging to spend at the election.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business minister, said “we’re going to spend a bit more” than now but repeatedly dodged questions about what the total sum would be.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he insisted “I’m not going to bandy around figures”, after the Tories put a similar price on Labour’s pledges of £1.2tn.

Nia Griffith MP
Image: Nia Griffith called the Tories total sum ‘ludicrous’

Nia Griffiths, Labour’s shadow defence secretary, called the calculation “absolutely ludicrous” and insisted it “comes from absolutely nowhere”.

The row over both parties spending plans erupted on Saturday night after the Conservatives claimed it had come up with the total cost of Labour’s spending plans based on its 2017 manifesto and subsequent promises.

Mr Kwarteng said “our sums are not anything as astronomical and huge as the Labour sums” and that his party was offering a “much lower figure” on infrastructure spending.

He maintained “we do have a number” of the Conservatives’ own total spending equivalent – but refused to give it, promising only to be “prudent” and “sensible” with Britain’s economy.

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Neither of the two biggest parties has yet released its official manifesto, with just over a month to go until voters head to the polls on Thursday 12 December.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised the Tories’ will be fully costed, as opposed to last time when Jeremy Corbyn did but Theresa May did not.

Ms Griffiths dismissed the £1.2tn sum as a “headline to try and rubbish Labour”, which was the front page story of several prominent Sunday newspapers.

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She said Mr Kwarteng “just couldn’t explain the figures”, adding: “They know we’re going to have a much more exciting manifesto than what they’ve produced.”

Chancellor Sajid Javid said his party’s analysis was the “true cost” of Labour’s spending plans, but did not explain why, for example, it included a pledge to scrap all private schools immediately – which Labour has insisted it will not do.

Sky News’ political reporter Rob Powell said the overall figure should be treated with “extreme caution”.

The Tories are also planning to increase government spending if they win the election and have unveiled plans to boost investment spending – money for new hospitals schools and transport – by £20bn a year.

The Brexit Election: For the fastest results service and in-depth analysis watch Sky News live from 9pm on Thursday 12 December, with a KayBurley@Breakfast election special on Friday 13 December

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