Coffee House

Nick Clegg’s 2015 slogan: you can’t trust Ed Balls with your money

26 September 2012

4:33 PM

26 September 2012

4:33 PM

Like the whole of this Liberal Democrat conference, Nick Clegg’s speech to delegates did the job, but didn’t exactly lift the roof from the Brighton Centre. Those watching were happy: they applauded warmly and laughed at all the jokes (which hasn’t always been the case this week in Brighton), and they were utterly overjoyed when the Deputy Prime Minister announced that Paddy Ashdown will chair the party’s 2015 general election team.

He told members to ‘go for it’, and raised two laughs when he quoted Jo Grimond, saying that he could ‘see generations of Liberal marching towards the sound of gunfire. And yes, I see them going back to their constituencies to prepare for government.’ Behind these battle cries, running as a thread throughout the speech, was a concerted attack on Labour, and more specifically Ed Balls. The Olympians and Paralympians and Maurice Reeves, whose furniture shop was burnt down in the riots, did not survive as a theme throughout the speech beyond the introductory remarks. Instead the key theme was Labour. The Lib Dem leader told the party to take ‘no more lectures about betrayal’ because ‘it was Labour who plunged us into austerity and it is we the Liberal Democrats, who will get us out’.


Mocking the opposition’s approach to the economy, Clegg said:

‘Our journey from austerity to prosperity starts, of course, with economic rescue; dealing with our debts and delivering growth. If you listen to Labour, you could be forgiven for thinking that austerity is a choice; that the sacrifices it involves can be avoided; that if we only enacted Ed Balls’ latest press release we’d be instantly transported to that fantasy world where there is no ‘boom and bust’ and the money never runs out.’

Later he added:

‘Ranged against these forces, the idea that if government just deregulated a bit more as Liam Fox proposes, or borrowed and spent a bit more as Ed Balls proposes, we would, at a stroke, achieve strong and lasting growth, is just not credible. In my experience, if you’re being attacked by Liam Fox on one side, and Ed Balls from the other, you’re in the right place.’

And then later still, he trumpeted the Coalition’s achievement in retaining a top rate of tax ‘that is still higher than throughout Labour’s 13 years in office’. That’s not strictly true: the 50p rate was in place for 35 days of those 13 years, but it pleased the delegates, anyway. Clegg added that ‘there can be no question of reducing it further in this Parliament’. He told activists that when they campaigned in 2015, they should ask voters ‘are you ready to trust Labour with your money again? And do you really think the Tories will make Britain fairer?’ It’s quite early to be launching the slogan for 2015, but there it is.

What is clear from this is that Ed Balls represents a significant barrier to a future deal between the Lib Dems and Labour. It was highly significant that Ed Miliband was not mentioned once in the speech. These attacks weren’t just the normal knockabout between senior party figures: Clegg was saying that you cannot trust Ed Balls with the economy, and that the shadow chancellor lives in a ‘fantasy world’. When you attack someone’s basic competence so bluntly and repeatedly throughout a keynote speech like this, it is impossible to form a credible partnership with them. Labour may be hinting that Clegg’s head would be the price of a Lib-Lab pact: Clegg today made it clear that Balls could have the same significance for his party.

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Show comments
  • AWW

    So that would be the Ed Balls with the economic policies that Clegg agreed with before the election?

  • HJ777

    Whatever anybody thinks about him, he’s spot on when it comes to Ed Balls.

    • George_Arseborne

      Brown’s Government left this country growing. Clegg and Cameron just delivered double dip recession. Who is trusted with the nation’s purse? Balls neither Calamity Clegg nor Moron Osborne

      • HJ777

        Not true.

        The first (and much deepest) recession occurred under Brown’s government. Only the second (and much shallower) dip occurred under the present government. In my opinion, the debt overhang made this inevitable (although Osborne should have cut spending rather than increase taxes).

        As for Brown’s government “leaving this country growing” – that is economic nonsense. It increased borrowing and spending rapidly pre-election – and the ‘growth’ this produced was worth less than the increase in borrowing. Any fool can make the GDP figures look better for a short period by borrowing and spending huge amounts of money – but it isn’t sustainable.

        • Amergin Selby

          Links and numbers please. You are making unfounded statements.
          Typical apologist. Why doesn’t osborne and Alexander make the same case? Because its a load of cobblers.

          • HJ777

            Why ask me for links and numbers and then denounce my statements as unfounded before I have provided them?

            If you look at the you can see the figures for yourself.

            In 2008, UK GDP was £1433.87bn. Public spending was £575.97bn

            In 2010, UK GDP was £1458.45bn. Public spending was £660.81bn

            In other words, the rise in public spending was larger than the rise in GDP.

            You owe me an apology.

    • Amergin Selby

      No he isn’t. Ed Balls is perhaps the best qualified academically of all present members of Parliament. Ignoring your ideological leanings you must find that difficult to deny.

      • HJ777

        Ed Balls is a complete economics ignoramus.

        I suggest that you go and read his ‘Bloomberg’ speech, much praised by those on the left. In it, he makes verifiably false statements about economic history (he could easily have checked his facts, but he is blinded by his own political views).

        To give just one blatant example – he claims in his speech that the 1981 budget caused a recession. Now there is a legitimate debate to be had about how the Tories handled the economy from 1979 onwards and whether the 1981 budget was well judged. But what is clear beyond dispute is that the 1981 budget did not cause a recession – the recession was already over by then as the official economic figures show. In fact, the economy grew consistently for many years from that point on.

        Also referring to that article, David Smith (Economics editor of the Sunday Times) described his description of the 1930s as “distinctly dodgy”.

        I am no fan of Vince Cable, but he is easily better qualified, both academically, and by experience, in the area of economics than Ed Balls. I suggest you Google his CV.

        In any case, we know from his track record that Balls is disastrously incompetent.

        • Dimoto

          It is relatively easy (especially with privileged access), to accumulate a few degrees in economics. Much, much more difficult to show sound judgement in economic decision making.
          Balls is an epic fail at economic judgement.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    So Paddy Ashdown – rabid EU-phile – who refuses to admit that the Euro was a cataclysmic mistake for Europe and still insists that the UK must join, is to lead the LibDems’s 2015 General Election team.
    Nigel must be indulging in a bottle of his favourite Rioja tonight.

  • FredDibnahsLoveChild

    Like we can trust David Laws?

  • Austin Barry

    Clegg: dead man talking.

  • Noa

    “…In my experience, if you’re being attacked by Liam Fox on one side, and Ed Balls from the other, you’re in the right place…’

    Amazing, the fellow actually wants to be the custard in a pudding convention.

    • telemachus

      Clearly Nick is running scared from one with 10 times his charisma
      It gets better and better

      • Dimoto

        Who ? Fox ?
        So you really like him, yah ?

        • telemachus

          Forget Fox
          Let’s get to the important-Hamza has an injunction against deportation
          May will regret her leaked certainty

          • Austin Barry

            ‘Hamza’ could enter the English language as a neologistic synonym for a bouyant piece of faecal matter impervious to repeated attempts at flushing: a Hamza.

            • Amergin Selby

              Don’t ever remember agreeing with you but I really ,really liked that. It has registered indelibly in my colloquial vocabulary. Many thanks.

          • pilsden

            Rubbish wrong case you are talking about Abu Qatada to Yemen

            • telemachus

              Google it
              Or look at News24

            • telemachus

              Google it
              Or look at News24