David Cameron’s refusal to debate Ed Miliband is an obvious attempt to evade detailed discussion of key election issues in favour of juvenile catch-phrases like the government’s supposed ‘long-term economic plan’ that are trotted out each week at the farce that now passes for Prime Minister’s Questions.
Let’s examine the PM’s record. The Government promised but failed to eliminate the deficit in this Parliament. They borrowed £219bn more that they said they would - enough to run the NHS for two years. They decimated public services by destroying hundreds of thousands of good-quality jobs.
Gateshead council, like all others in the North East, has been hammered. It now has 45% less money which means that every man, woman and child has been robbed of £328. We have lost 1,700 high-quality public servants.
We have lost a fire engine at Birtley and another at Swalwell, plus 130 firefighters across Tyne and Wear. Lives will be lost not only in fires, but on the A1, the third most congested road in Britain, because firefighters will no longer be available to get people out of crashed cars.
The Government also imposed a 2.5% VAT rise on every man, woman and child, sadly with the backing of Liberal Democrats who promised they would not raise VAT. The Government made life desperate for people who rely on benefits - the already poor have been made poorer - and the bedroom tax has penalised many others.
The Government gave away successful public assets such as Royal Mail at rock-bottom rates. They privatised the successful operations side and nationalised the deficit, which was the pensions. Now even the chief executive worries that it will not be able to keep the universal service obligation.
Last week, they privatised East Coast, the best performing railway in the country, and are now talking about privatising Eurostar. We all know, despite their promises, that if they are elected the NHS will be moving rapidly towards privatisation.
The actual long-term economic plan is to continue making rich people richer. They will not stop their friends’ dodgy tax deals because they rely on their donations for their election campaigns. They will also offer £7bn of unfunded tax promises to the better off.
The Government has also reduced the tax base by forcing people into low-paid jobs where they pay less income tax and national insurance contributions to the tune of nearly £100bn.
Another example of Tory fiscal fiddling is telling English councils and economic development agencies that only London would be allowed to decide how to spend its share of billions of European Union funds over the next five years.
This means we would see the same slanted distribution of European funds as we have seen local government where councils like Gateshead are cut while better off councils in leafy southern suburbs have been left untouched. We all pay into the central pot and should all get our fair share out.
A proper debate would help expose these scams and discuss the clear alternatives on offer. This includes lowering taxes for small businesses, a proper industrial strategy for our biggest employers, not just the high-tech firms, and partnership between them and the unions, all on the basis of a decent minimum wage and fair taxes, as well as lower utility costs.
We should devolve power to councils which know better than Whitehall what is going on in their areas. We need to make work pay by stopping exploitive zero-hours contracts rather than having people on tenterhooks, not knowing whether they will work the next day.
The Conservatives are committed to going back to the 1930s, and want a low-paid, low-skill workforce too frightened to stand up to the boss.
That Cameron is running away from a proper debate speaks volumes. He may think it is a clever tactical wheeze to weasel out of debate but voters are not stupid and know they are being taken for granted. With or without a debate between the two frontrunners for PM, the election is the best opportunity to show who is boss and test the arguments of those, including Labour, who want to run the country.
Dave Anderson is Labour MP for Blaydon.