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Reform’s manifesto pledges ‘are poisoning public debate’

Nigel Farage, the leader of Reform UK
Nigel Farage, the leader of Reform UK, has promised a wave of tax cuts and spending increases - Getty Images

Reform UK’s manifesto pledges are “poisoning the public debate” in Britain by promising unrealistic spending plans which undermine other parties’ policies, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said.

Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, said plans by both Reform and the Green party to spend tens of billions of pounds funded from unreliable sources made other parties look “feeble” without offering a real alternative to voters.

He said: “The way they suggest that they have radical ideas which can realistically make a positive difference, when in fact what they propose is wholly unattainable, helps to poison the entire political debate.

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“It makes the other parties look feeble when you say, ‘We can do all this stuff. You can’t.’”

Reform UK, headed by Nigel Farage, has promised a wave of tax cuts and spending increases which the IFS said would risk a rerun of the crunch that swept financial markets after Liz Truss’s mini-Budget in 2022.

‘They should tell us how they are going to achieve it’

Mr Johnson said: “They propose £90bn, by their numbers, of specific tax cuts and £50bn of spending increases, paid for by a £150bn package of measures that includes substantial and completely unspecified cuts in welfare and government waste.

“If they want a smaller state, which is a perfectly reasonable ambition, they should tell us how they are going to achieve it. We saw the consequences of massive tax cuts with no detail on how they would be paid for in September 2022.

“What Reform offers is on a much bigger scale than what we saw then.”

Meanwhile the Green Party’s plans for extra borrowing “would have unpleasant consequences” when the national debt is already above £2.7 trillion and the interest bill is mounting.

At the same time a £90bn carbon tax would drive up living costs and hammer large parts of the economy, the IFS boss said.

Mr Johnson added: “It would raise the cost of many essentials and be economically disruptive. Much, probably most, of any money raised, would need to be used to mitigate those effects, and to support those on lower incomes, not to fund public services.

“In any case, any effective carbon tax would reduce the amount of carbon-based activity and hence, eventually, raise a lot less.”

A Green Party spokesman said: “Our manifesto proposals are based on Office for Budget Responsibility data and detailed modelling. While there is always scope for debating the exact yields from new taxes, we believe the estimates we have produced are robust.

“As for our fiscal approach to the climate crisis, we have followed OBR modelling on the fiscal risks from climate change and our plans are quite similar to their ‘early action scenario’.

“They conclude that this approach to tackling climate change will lead to less debt and a stronger economy than delaying action. So we are proposing what the OBR recommends as fiscally prudent.”