Scrutiny of Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak’s economic pledges intensified today after the IFS once again accused Labour and the Conservatives of engaging in a “conspiracy of silence” over the dire state of Britain’s public finances and ignoring “painful choices” ahead.

It will be a “considerable surprise” if taxes are not increased over the next five years, warned Paul Johnson, head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, given the incredibly tight fiscal situation that an incoming government will inherit.

First, a quick recap of Britain’s challenging economic reality: over a decade of stagnation, paired with a pandemic and an energy crisis, has forced the government to spend, borrow and tax on a vast scale. Public sector debt stands at a 60-year high while taxes are at their highest level since 1949. Despite these high levels of taxation, debt and public spending, public services are under significant pressure, as illustrated by widespread council bankruptcies and record NHS waiting lists.

And yet, “these raw facts are largely ignored by the two main parties in their manifestos,” according to the IFS.