Chancellor George Osborne used his visit to Alnwick today to try to persuade voters that the economy and the NHS are safest under another Conservative government.
Mr Osborne also categorically denied – not for the first time – that his party has any plans to introduce regional pay for public-sector workers or for tolls on the A1. “That is absolutely not going to happen,” he added.
During the interview, he made a number of references to the Conservatives’ record on the economy over the past five years and the risk of a weak government headed by Ed Miliband and propped up by Scottish nationalists.
Asked about why the Tories are neck and neck with Labour despite a growing economy and dropping unemployment, he said: “Our message is very clear and I think it’s a message that’s getting through; if you want a strong economy and you want David Cameron at the head of a strong, stable government then you need to vote for him, you need to vote Conservative.
“I think as people focus on that message with just a couple of days to go, they will see they want to vote for a bright future for the north of England and a bright future for the North East and Northumberland.”
The NHS has been back in the headlines today as Mr Miliband warned that two-thirds of hospital trusts face having to make ‘swingeing cuts’ after a leaked internal document showed that the health service is projected to run a deficit of nearly £2billion this year.
Asked how he could convince voters that the NHS is safe in Conservative hands, he said: “First of all, here in this part of Northumberland, the local trust has done a great job in running its finances. I make this bigger point though – we are absolutely committed to the National Health Service, but unless you have a strong economy, you can’t have a strong NHS so we need an economic plan that’s going to grow the economy, create jobs, create wealth in our nation and provide rising living standards for people.
He added: “All of that’s put at risk if we have a weak Government.
“Under our plan, the Conservative plan, we can go on investing year on year in the NHS and go on creating more doctors and nurses as we have done in recent years and that’s absolutely what we are committed to doing over the coming years.”
The Chancellor also made reference to his efforts to create a Northern Powerhouse, ‘to recreate the success of London and the south in the north’.
“What’s very exciting at the moment is that for the first time in living memory, the north is growing faster than the south,” he said. “We have had enormous success in growing businesses and creating jobs in the North East. Let’s continue that, let’s not abandon all that.”
Mr Osborne was also asked about his party’s proposals for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, which has led Nissan to say that it may not manufacture its Juke at its Sunderland plant, but in France.
“The Nissan plant at Sunderland is one of the really brilliant success stories of the British economy, I was there not that long ago. They have grown and invested here because we have created a pro-business culture where businesses – large like Nissan or small like this café and some of the smaller business owners I have met here in Alnwick – feel they can expand, grow, take people on and create jobs.
“We want to make sure, as part of that, that Britain has a good deal in its relationship with the EU. I don’t think most people at the moment in the country are happy with the nature of our relationship with the EU.
“We want to change that, we want to make sure British gets a better deal, British taxpayers get a better deal, British businesses get a better deal and we have a whole European continent, including Britain, where jobs are created and sadly that’s not the case in too much of the EU at the moment.
“We want to have that renegotiation and then we say to people, ‘you choose this country’s future in a referendum, we trust you in that’. There are some people who want to leave the EU, some people who want to get even more deeply in, but most people want to be in Europe, but not run by Europe and that’s what our plan is aiming to achieve.”