By politics.co.uk staff
Alistair Darling has described how the last two years saw him take the toughest decisions of his life.
In a speech which framed his tough choices against the inexperience of the Conservatives, Mr Darling highlighted in particular the nationalisation of Northern Rock and the bank bail-out.
"I have had to take the hardest decisions of my political life in the last two years," he said.
"In the last two years, experience and judgment have mattered. David Cameron and George Osborne have shown little evidence of either."
He went on: "We have a clear plan to halve the deficit in four years. As I speak they appear to have no plan. Or no plan they are willing to share.
"We should know how they intend to reduce the deficit. In how many years? How much would they spend next year to support the economy and have they any plan for growth?"
The chancellor warned of an "age of austerity" if Mr Cameron wins the election.
"The choice we make will shape this country for the next 20 years and genuine choices between a Labour government encouraging growth and prosperity, and David Cameron's low ambition, low growth age of austerity," he said.
The speech comes a day after business secretary Peter Mandelson drew criticism from the Tories for suggesting cuts could start taking place this year.
In a speech which tried to reassure education experts that universities were not being singled out for cuts, Lord Mandelson said that "much of the rest of the public sector will face similar constraints this year or soon after".
Neither Gordon Brown nor Mr Darling have ever accepted that cuts could occur as early as this year, persistently arguing that cutting spending too early could threaten the economic recovery.
The Tories said the comment has "blown apart" the government claim that recovery is too vulnerable for cuts to be risked in the short term.