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Coffee House

Peter Hain wants more debt — another policy stolen from the Tories

7 May 2013

10:52 PM

7 May 2013

10:52 PM

Peter Hain is pessimistic about Ed Miliband’s chances, in spite of what the bookies say*. ‘If a general election was held tomorrow, Labour wouldn’t win a majority,’ he writes in Progress Online. ‘The truth is if we want a majority in 2015, we need to be performing better than we are now.’ He also zeroes in on the problem: Ed Balls, and how few of his Shadow Cabinet colleagues will support him:

‘We cannot afford to be equivocal about our economic policy. We need to be more upfront with the public about our intentions. Yes, we will borrow more in the short-term, in order to generate growth that will reduce borrowing in the medium-term. It makes sense to do so with interest rates so low. We will borrow to invest in new homes, major infrastructure projects, refurbishing schools, creating employment. Schemes that will stimulate the economy. But we will nevertheless run a tight fiscal regime.’

Precisely how Miliband would run a ‘tight fiscal regime’ while promising to borrow even more than the Tories is not quite clear, but Hain also points out how few of Ed Balls’ colleagues want to take to the airwaves and back him up:

‘I’m confident Labour can win the economic argument if Ed has the support of a loyal team around him. It’s important that all members of the shadow cabinet play their full role in explaining and defending Labour’s policy and approach. Labour’s Treasury team need to get out on the stump now and work even harder. It shouldn’t just be left to Ed and Harriet to carry the heavy load, whether on the World at One, the Today programme or anywhere else.’

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In his eloquent rage, Mr Hain has forgotten someone. George Osborne agrees with borrowing ‘more in the short term’ and has been testing this policy to destruction over the last three years. The national debt is now rising by £2,000 a second. Result? The economic growth hasn’t come, but we’re stuck with the debt. And if Labour would borrow even more — say, £2,500 a second — would that be a gamechanger? It’s hard to find a serious economist who would say so. That’s why Balls has so few people willing to help him on backing vocals. They know that he is singing a rotten tune.

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* Subscribers to our Evening Blend email will know the odds on the next election, which we update every day. Lab majority 41%, Con majority 19%, Lab-LD coalition 18%, Con-LD coalition 12%, other 10%. Be in the know: sign up here.

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