The Conservatives have sparked a furious political row with Labour over claims that a Jeremy Corbyn government would splurge over £1 trillion on its policy pledges.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Tory attack was “fake news” while government ministers came unstuck amid questions about their own spending commitments.
Read more: Sajid Javid confirms new fiscal rules
With economic policy set to take centre-stage during the campaign, Conservative strategists believe Labour is vulnerable to the charge that its policies would “bankrupt the country.”
Chancellor Sajid Javid has also vowed to ramp up public spending but refused yesterday to put a precise figure on the costs.
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng was asked yesterday by Sky News how much the Tories would spend if they won the 12 December election.
He said: “I’m not going to bandy around figures” and said the manifesto would be costed when it was finalised.
Javid also refused to give away further details of the Conservatives’ spending plans, telling the BBC: “I’m not going to get into individual policies today.”
The Conservatives have pledged to end austerity after the election with spending promises of an extra £20bn a year on capital projects, and an extra £7bn and £34bn for the education and health budgets respectively over the next three years.
Labour, meanwhile, has pledged to double net capital spending to £100bn a year.
The Conservatives claim that a Labour government would spend an additional £1.2 trillion over a five-year term, citing the cost of Labour’s 2017 manifesto as well as policies passed by the party in subsequent party conferences.
Javid said Labour’s plans would “lead to an economic crisis within months”.
McDonnell said the analysis was “an incompetent mish-mash of debunked estimates and bad maths cooked up because they know Labour’s plans for real change are popular.”
The Liberal Democrats’ treasury spokesperson Ed Davey said both parties’ costings need to be scrutinised by the Office for Budget Responsibility.
He accused Labour and the Tories of engaging in a “battle to splash the cash”.
Reports emerged yesterday that voters may be treated to a televised head-to-head debate between Javid and McDonnell.
The two sides are apparently wrangling over the details.