ELECTION 2017: Labour quizzed on costing of manifesto promises

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Labour’s election manifesto launch was overshadowed by fresh questions over how it would pay for a string ambitious promises costing billions of pounds.

The party insisted an annual increase in day-to-day spending of around £49bn on policies including subsidised childcare and extra money for the NHS could be paid for by measures including income tax increases for the wealthiest and adding VAT to private school fees.

But this ignored a raft of other pledges including building a new “Crossrail for the North” connecting the cities of the North, investing in new energy infrastructure and providing “universal superfast broadband”.

The manifesto also included commitments to nationalising the railways, and bringing Royal Mail, water and energy back into public ownership.

The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies said it was “uncertain” whether Labour’s plan to lower the 45p rate income tax threshold to £80,000 and bring back the 50p tax rate would raise the expected £6.4bn a year and warned “it could also raise nothing”.

Speaking at the launch of the Labour manifesto at Bradford University before campaigning in Huddersfield and Leeds, Mr Corbyn declined to put a figure on how much extra Government borrowing his plans would involve.

But he said they would mean investment in infrastructure was spread “fairly across the whole of the UK, not totally in London and the South-East”.

He added: “This government has borrowed because it hasn’t invested and it has borrowed more and more because it has invested less and less and we end up with a process of almost managed economic decline relative to what we could achieve.”

Mr Corbyn also defended his leadership amid suggestions that polls show his own unpopularity is overshadowing Labour policies which enjoy public support.

He said: “I am very very proud to lead this party. I was elected by a very large number of members and supporters, ordinary people all over this country.

“I am very proud that we have a party that is diverse, that is inclusive, that is pluralistic and this manifesto is a product of that process.

“I see leadership as not dictating but leadership is also about listening.”

At one point Mr Corbyn was forced to call on the audience to show “respect” as journalists asking questions were jeered.

There was confusion over whether Labour’s manifesto was committing the party to ending the freeze on benefits.

At the launch, Mr Corbyn said “clearly we are not going to freeze benefits” and the party later insisted that commitment was covered by its pledge of an extra £2bn for universal credit.

The Conservatives’ David Gauke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “It’s clear that proposal after proposal in this manifesto will mean more borrowing and debt: from promises on benefits, to promises on prison guards, to promises on nationalising the water network.”