Tonight is the last time you can see the three party leaders go head to head before polling day. The subject for the last TV debate on BBC1- the future of the economy – could not be more important for you, your family and your future.
This time don’t treat the clash like watching the X factor. Instead think of your vote as the equivalent of writing a very big cheque at a car showroom for a dream motor or at a department store for a designer kitchen. You are going to spend a lot of money. You want a good product that lasts, is not going to cost you a bomb to service or repair, and some guarantee that you can afford to pay for it.
Now treat the three party leaders not as politicians but like the salesmen you would encounter on the forecourt or in the shop and take a very critical view of how they pitch their sale to you.
On the economy you already have your own independent Which? report provided by the Institute for Fiscal Studies about the huge hidden failings in the product. Look it up before the debate. In short you will discover, just like many salespeople, the politicians may not have deliberately lied, but they have seriously misled you about the huge cost of the product you are about to buy.
They have not told you the price they will charge you to bail out the bankers either in lost services or higher taxes and charges.
The scale of their deception is highest among the Tories, pretty bad from Labour and slightly better from the Liberal Democrats.
David Cameron – the smoothest of the salesmen – has concentrated on the nice extras you will get from the Tories – an extra £3 a week for married families, no extra bills on your national insurance, a freeze on your council tax.
But he has not told you how you are going to cope with a whopping £52.4 billion in public spending cuts- beginning weeks after May 7. It’s like
a salesman diverting you to look at the car’s funky stereo system while not telling you the motor does five miles to the gallon.
To get such cuts the Tories will have to go much further than anything they have said. You are looking at things like a dramatic rise in the retirement age – not their stated 66 but more like 70 – or doubling commuter rail fares if they have to remove the transport subsidy. Or VAT will have to go up. Their unfunded cuts are the largest of any party.
Labour’s salesman, grumpy Gordon Brown, has promised to exempt front line staff in the NHS, schools and the police from cuts. What he hasn’t told you is that this means you are going to face much steeper cuts to find the £52.1 billion of savings from other departments like local government, the arts, housing, transport, social security and defence .And this is on top of higher national insurance. Or again VAT will go up. The problem with Labour is that you have to pay more to safeguard what they have promised to exempt and this will happen from next April.
The Liberal Democrats salesman genial Nick Clegg is the nearest the IFS find to being anywhere near honest. They have to find the lowest sum – some £34.5 billion.
They may not have to introduce more tax increases but they will have to introduce more cuts. Their policy sees a meaningful tax cut worth £700 a year to anybody earning between £10,000 and £113,000. Those earning less than £10,000 including many pensioners on low incomes will be exempt from tax altogether.
Better off families with children will lose out on child tax credits, lose their child trust fund and the NHS, schools and the police will not be exempt from cuts unlike Labour. What you have from the Liberal Democrats is the nearest to a consumer product guarantee but you still don’t know the call out charges.
By the end of the debate it is likely that none of the leaders will have genuinely spelled out the real cost of their policies to tackle the deficit. It is up to you to decide which is the least worst option. Unlike a disgruntled shopper, you can’t entirely walk away because you are going to get one of the products anyway.
You also should not forget that these were the people who conned you over their expense claim system and you should not allow them to con you again. Also ignore the distractions over hung Parliaments, that is a problem for the politicians not you.
Remember also there are other candidates standing from the Nationalists,Green Party, UKIP and independents. It’s your vote.
This blog also appears on the UK site of MSN’s general election feature page.