The Tories hope they can lie their way back into Downing Street.
In a further acceleration of the general election campaign, the Conservatives launched a poster for the new year urging voters, “Let’s stay on the road to a stronger economy.”
The poster won’t impress the vast majority of people who know their living standards have been falling for years and show no sign of improving.
The average wage is now worth £50 a week less than when the Tories took office. Even the Office for Budgetary Responsibility forecast showed growth weakening before the majority of workers have seen any benefits from the recovery.
The Tories are preparing further attacks. Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith wants to accelerate benefit “reforms” before the election to stop Labour reversing them if the Tories are chucked out.
He said there would be a “step change” in the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC). In truth, it’s unlikely that Labour has any plans to overturn benefit cuts.
Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls faced Tory criticism that a Labour government would spend billions extra. He emphasised on Monday that he would not commit to reversing the public sector pay freeze or scrapping council cuts in the first year after the election.
He even rejected topping up NHS pay by the paltry 1 percent recommended by the review body.
He thereby turned his back on the health workers who will strike in January and February over pay.
Last weekend Douglas Alexander, the chair of Labour’s general election strategy, sought to give a left-wing gloss to the party.
He knows that the only way to mobilise supporters is to suggest there will be a real difference if Labour wins.
Alexander said Labour will be “freezing energy bills until 2017”, “putting our young people back to work” and “scrapping the bedroom tax”.
But his list also includes “paying down the deficit”, “cutting business rates” and “controlling immigration fairly”.
At every stage from now to 7 May, Labour will offer only the most meagre reforms, and no fundamental break from austerity.
We need a left alternative.
Vote for socialists in May
There will be left candidates in May’s elections.
More than 30 general election candidates have already been agreed by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
They include Socialist Worker supporters Anne Lemon in Bristol North West, Jenny Sutton in Tottenham, Angela McCormick in Glasgow North, Jon Woods in Portsmouth North and Dave Gibson in Barnsley Central.
The Scottish Socialist Party has also announced it is standing candidates after the SNP refused its offer of a Yes Alliance for May’s elections. Left Unity is also set to stand around 15 candidates across Britain.
Socialist Worker believes there needs to be a much more united left in Britain.
A joint election challenge can be part of building it and attracting the many thousands of people who are presently in no party but want a credible challenge to the main parties from the left.
It’s therefore welcome that TUSC in Scotland and the SSP are seeking agreement about avoiding clashes between them, and in some areas joint Left Unity/TUSC candidates have been selected.
It will not be easy to win big votes for left of Labour candidates. There will be heavy pressure on people to vote Labour to beat the Tories and keep out Ukip.
But it is very important to put forward a real socialist voice at the elections and to prepare for the struggles that will come whoever wins in May.
And vibrant campaigns, drawing in the broadest possible forces, can win respectable votes.