Coffee House

Ed Balls’ shouty spending review response avoids difficult dividing lines

26 June 2013

4:29 PM

26 June 2013

4:29 PM

Ed Balls had a rather shouty time in the Commons this afternoon when he responded to George Osborne’s spending review statement. It was a shame, because his lack of variation in tone and pace from ‘angry bellow’ level made what wasn’t a bad response a little difficult to follow.

These responses to budgets, autumn statements and spending reviews are very difficult for any shadow chancellor or opposition leader to carry off well: you have no warning of what the Chancellor will say, and just the length of the speech itself to re-shape your pre-crafted speech and collect your thoughts. But Balls had decided when preparing for the spending round that he would talk about the government’s failure to meet its own targets and to foster economic growth, and on living standards. Yesterday’s Treasury Questions underlined the problems with talking about borrowing for both parties, particularly Labour. Living standards make a better line of attack.

Balls decided to focus on what the government said it would do, and then didn’t. He said:

‘Does he remember what he told the House three years ago in his first Budget and Spending Review? He said the economy would grow by six per cent – but it’s grown by just one per cent. He pledged to get the banks lending – but bank lending is down month on month on month. He made the number one test of his economic credibility keeping the AAA credit rating – but on his watch we have been downgraded, not once but twice.

‘He promised living standards would rise – but they’re falling year on year. He said we’re all in this together – but he has given a huge tax cut to millionaires. He promised to balance the books – and that promise is in tatters. Failed tests, broken promises. His friends call him George, the President calls him Jeffrey… but to everyone else he’s just Bungle. Even Zippy on the frontbench can’t stop smiling Mr Speaker. Calm down, Zippy, calm down.’

But what his speech didn’t do was set out what Labour would and wouldn’t do. Sure, there was a section asking why Osborne wouldn’t scrap winter fuel payments for the richest pensioners or introduce a 10p tax rate funded by a mansion tax. But Balls knows that’s not enough.

[Alt-Text]


In many ways, a shadow chancellor’s response to these fiscal events doesn’t matter, because all the constraints listed above. This was a holding statement. He will find those six dividing lines – and these questions from CCHQ below – following him around over the next few days. His response to each question will be far more instructive – and difficult.

1.Would Labour match the £11.5 billion of savings in 2015-16?
2.Do you oppose any of the cuts announced today and if so how would you pay for reversing them?

3.Would Labour borrow more to spend more than the Government’s capital spending plans in 2015-16?

4.The Government has excluded the basic state pension from its welfare cap. Will you keep the basic state pension inside Labour’s welfare cap?

5.The SR announced 180 new free schools in 2015-16. Will you cut these?

6. Will you vote for the back to work welfare reform package, including the 7 day wait for benefits and the English language test?

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Show comments
  • Thats_news

    Balls reminds me oif a harmless but eccentric chap in our town. He sits on a bench and shouts and bellows at people. He is known locally as Mr Shouty Man.

    Mr Balls, the eccentric, but harmless, Mr Shouty Man? An apt description.

  • Colonel Mustard

    The leftists love their labels and identity groups. Revanchists, Makhnovists, Counter-Revolutionaries, Imperialist Running Dogs, Enemies of the People. From Stalin to Mao, to Pol Pot, and Unite Against Fascism (ha!) like peas in a pod. The same old same old. Attack their ideology and invariably they will attack you with as much ad hominem they can muster and mob-handed where possible.

  • telemachus

    The Makhnovists seem to think there was a demise in the UK during the last administration
    The untrammelled prosperity crated by Gordon taken together with Tony Blairs undoubted world superstar status led to not only a move up every world league table you care to think of but also a widespread respect from world figures and bodies, enhanced further when Gordon saved the world’s banks after Lehman blew our own and the US economies off course
    The whole country cries out to get back to the glory we knew during those golden years

    • Fergus Pickering

      You can hear them crying, you really can.

      • telemachus

        They only have to cry for a further 23 months

    • HookesLaw

      Tearfully funny.

      After following tory plans which paid down debt, brown then added £213 billion to the national debt at a time of growth. Then we had the crash and brown/Darling promptly added another 100 billion to the debt.

      Tony Blair was such a superstar he was despised by the labour party. Never mind, Kinnock has got his party back.

      • arnoldo87

        The fact is that the country was in better economic shape in 2007/8 than it was in 1997. No amount of your wishful thinking can alter that truth.

        • Gary Smith

          Err was you cryogenically frozen or something

          • arnoldo87

            Here are the facts. Please feel free to dispute them if you can:-

            In 1997 John Major left Labour a Golden Economic Legacy, or so it is claimed. The economic factors at the time were as follows:-
            Inflation 2.34%
            Unemployment 7.5%
            Structural deficit 3.5%
            Debt 42% of GDP
            Now I’m not sure if this was a Golden Legacy, but here is another set of figures for a different year and a different government:-
            Inflation 2.85%
            Unemployment 5.3%
            Structural Deficit 2.2%
            Debt 36% of GDP
            Even better wouldn’t you say? Of course you would!
            These were the figures that applied in 2007/8, just before the Banking Crisis.
            Which exposes the absolute tosh that we have been hearing for the last three years about the need for a Labour apology.

            This also appears on another thread, but no apologies. The truth can’t be repeated often enough.

            • Tim Reed

              …and how much higher would that debt/GDP ratio be if all those Brownite ‘hidden extras’ were included in the calculation?

              • arnoldo87

                Why don’t you tell us, Tim. Give us the figures. Who knows, maybe the debt figure would even approach the peak achieved by Ken Clarke.

              • arnoldo87

                Tim – I see you are still reading this thread. Have you got the figures yet for the “hidden extras”?

                • Tim Reed

                  There’s this just for starters…

                  Labour’s PFI will ultimately cost £300bn
                  PFI schemes for new hospitals could end up costing NHS trusts 12 times as much as the capital outlay.

                  http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jul/05/pfi-cost-300bn

                  …and this is just in the NHS ! None of this was on the balance sheets presented by Gordon Brown PM. Prudence indeed.

                • arnoldo87

                  The total PFI base cost was c.£70bn over seven years. Even if you put this in as a one year cost, you would just about reach the John Major debt figure.
                  The £300bn eventual cost is a disgrace (and yes Labour’s responsibility) and should be renegotiated by the government.
                  But it doesn’t alter the basic economic data that I have given you.

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              And I bet you have the figures for 5 year tractor production at your fingertips as well. The structural deficit did not magic it’s way into existence when David Cameron kissed hands it was bequeathed to him by that spendthrift fiscal lunatic Gordon Brown and the equally barking Ed Balls. Anybody would think Cameron etc had been bequeathed a golden economic legacy instead of a fiscal tragedy. But you keep up the fantasy it is what you leftists are good at.

              • arnoldo87

                The point is that the economy just before the banking crisis was in reasonably good shape (better than the Golden Economic Legacy of 1997).
                Therefore something big happened in 2008 to cause the massive increase in debt.
                Now what could that have been, I wonder?
                The answer is obvious to any reasonable person.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Something big? Was it that big boy who did it and ran away as Gordon and chums were always bleating?

                  As Byrne the Bald notoriously wrote “There is no money”. The crash of 2008 did not magically remove money from the treasury or gold from the bank. Brown was profligate in office with many low schemes of cunning and off-book connivances. When the crisis came the UK was uniquely positioned not to weather the storm, thanks to Gordon “No More Boom or Bust” Brown, the man who tinkered fatally with the financial regulatory system and sold our gold reserves off at rock bottom prices. The man who spent most of his time in office behaving as though he was in opposition to the Tories and dreaming up low schemes to disadvantage them.

                  You and your pals keep pushing that “reasonable person” line. It’s not just politics for you people but a religion and heretics must be burnt.

                • arnoldo87

                  “The crash of 2008 did not magically remove money from the treasury”
                  If I were you, Nicky, I’d have a long think about that claim before you repeat it.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  If I were you I’d have a long think about resorting to such silly games as referring to me as “Nicky” – or even “Nicky boy” – before you repeat it.

                  You are publishing a statement that purports to relate to me personally. It is not clear what you intend by it – to intimidate, to belittle, to provide some ambiguous advantage to your argument? It is unwanted. You have already done it at least once before.

                • arnoldo87

                  Apologies for thinking you were the chuzzle-witted Nicky. In my defence the debate up until then had been between the two of us. I can quite see how you would be upset by being confused with him.
                  My intention was certainly not to intimidate – it is difficult to imagine how this might be done in a world of anonymity.
                  But you could say it was to belittle, on the grounds that I didn’t think anyone would ever claim what you did. My posting was to advise you not to repeat it..

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  Your addressing your reply to the wrong person dimwit. The Colonel made that point.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  As predictable as night follows day, my favourite piece of disingenuous Labour Party hokum: “it was all going swimmingly and then this crisis came from absolutely nowhere and blew us off course – those wicked Americans – how unfair is that?”. The fact that Labour had allowed a credit fueled boom, in both the public and private sectors, to continue unabaited in order to prolong the feelgood factors which win elections is of course irrelevant to Labour apparatciks like yourself. As, of course, is the dismal regime of banking regulation which precipitated the first UK bank failures in 146 years and allowed the structuring of securitisation transactions backed by uncreditworthy assets. Absolutely brilliant, let’s take the regulation of banks from the BOE, the one institution capable of monitoring their activities and hand it over to a horse with four back legs of our own devising. There is a reason why so many catastrophic deals were done in London – it is because they could; other regulatory regimes demanded higher tolerances and creditworthiness. Stay with your Tractor production stats in your own little fantasy world where the left never gets it wrong. You will be telling us that Brown didn’t destroy private pension provision in the UK next. Now get lost.

                • arnoldo87

                  So I show you the facts, and you show me Tory propaganda. The figures prove that the economic situation at the end of 2007 was better than it was when Labour took power with its Golden Economic Legacy.
                  As for the credit-fuelled boom, the figures quoted are net of public credit, and private credit quantity is a result of confidence in prospects, which were seen as good at the time.
                  The banking crash happened in both the UK and America, and it is true that banking regulation was too weak. The Tories, however, were even more against regulation than Labour.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  Facts! Laughable, Even Ed Balls has admitted that a massive structural deficit existed before the banking crisis (On the daily Politics) so take it up with him. Of course, he then goes on to say that Labour did not waste money and were not aware that the structural deficit existed “at the time” but it is a start. Just keep churning out your tractor statistics and keep on kidding yourself. You are just another sad example of the fundamental truth that the only thing leftists understand about money is how to waste that which belongs to other people.

                • arnoldo87

                  I’ve already told you that the structural deficit in 2007/8 was lower than it was in 1997. (Figures above)
                  Against these facts your bluster means nothing. I suggest that you either accept these data and back off quietly, or challenge them.

                  Everyone’s got an opinion – it’s just that I have the figures to back mine up.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  No you have carefully selected statistics which support your case but fail to acknowledge that when the banking crisis hit our public finances were in the poorest state of all our major industrial rivals who had paid off debt rather than increased it as the economic cycle was peaking. An economic cycle the duration of which, you will no doubt conveniently forget, was constantl manipulated by Brown to circumvent the breaking of his own, so called, ‘Golden Rule’. You may quote statistics as much as you like but you are a leftist and thus a hater of democracy. Your only interest is to create a narrative supported by bogus statistics which will help to return the Labour Party to power for a period sufficient to begin the work of creating a single party state where nobody will even be allowed to challenge your bogus economic fantasies. You can quote statistics as much as you like but in 2010, despite never making a single mistake and creating a paradise on earth, Brown was hurled from office by the British public. That same public found themeselves landed with the largest structural deficit in peacetime history and one which was greater and more severe than any comparabel industrial nation. Those are the facts.

                • arnoldo87

                  You say my statistics are “carefully selected”. Well, in that case give me some data that supports your case. In this thread you have written many, many words, but so far you have not produced a single piece of economic data.
                  There are many people on this blog who repeat tired old propaganda against the last Labour government without any knowledge of the facts. When challenged they repeat the propaganda without debating the points put to them.
                  You are one such. I keep repeating that the economic situation in 2007/8 was not dissimilar to that in 1997 left by John Major (perhaps a little better but not far away). This is not just my view. The IFS report before the 2010 Election made the same point. You should have a read of it Nicholas – it’s also got lots of numbers in it.
                  And no doubt when you have, you will conclude that they are leftists, haters of democracy and totally ignorant of economics – without producing any numbers to back up your argument.

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  Ok here a a couple of statistics for you: £110 Billion taking out of private sector pension provision following the reform of FII by Gordon Scum Brown in 1997. The once self supporting private pension funds of the UK were once the envy of the World and now the British private sector has to work longer and harder to provide basic pensions for itself as well as ensuring that lazy, time-serving public sector workers can retire earlier with guaranteed and often index linked pensions. Second, despite the expenditure of countless Billions on the NHS, 1,200 people died uneccessarily in one health authority alone under Labour’s watch and they have the temerity to ask if the NHS is safe in Tory hands. So no, I am not impressed when another worthless, unproductive leftist apologist starts quoting statistics designed to obviate the last government of blame for the mess this country is in.

                • arnoldo87

                  So basically you haven’t got any data relevant to this subject – pathetic really, but totally predictable.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            No he is completely bonkers.

        • Tim Reed

          If your version of ‘better economic shape’ is an entirely false illusion of prosperity based upon a debt binge fuelled by artificially cheap credit sustained by the delusion that the natural cycle of boom and bust had been ended for all time…then yeah, we were in better shape under New Labour.

          • telemachus

            Were it not for the prosperity generated by Gordon we would still have a 5 year hip replacement waitin list and half of all patients dying on cardiac waiting lists
            Of course none of that matters until it is you

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              There was no prosperity just a debt fuelled binge designed to perpetuate Labour’s time in office. We are now picking up the bill for 13 years of Labour madness and irresponsibility.

              • telemachus

                Forget tears
                We only have 23 months to go until Ed Balls engineers growth and once again gives us prosperity

                • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                  The thought of that fiscal lunatic in charge of the Treasury for 12 months is pretty frightening. That said, it is therefore only 35 months until the IMF arrive with a programme of spending cuts that will make your eyes water. No ringfencing for them and it will be slash and burn time for the public sector. I have already volunteered my services to do some of the firing. I cannot wait!

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Nice try and completely accurate but we are wasting our time with Mr Tractor production stats. He is a leftist and they do not do reality, objectivity etc etc

    • Gary Smith

      Good lunch today TelePrompTer ?

      • telemachus

        As it happened yes
        Made better by watching PMQ’s and seeing Miliband and Balls make mincemeat of Cameron

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      I assume that “crated” by Gordon Brown should read ‘cratored’ by Gordon Brown. For the addition of one consonant and one vowel you will have actually said something sensible. Amazing!

      • telemachus

        Listen
        Gordon had his flaws
        But he gave the country the prosperity to modernise the health service and schools and when history is written even such as you will understand

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Yes and his biggest flaw was spending £180 Billion that we did not have!

  • Colonel Mustard

    Another New Labour fascist has-been glib about his past crimes. They have some nerve to sit on that front bench pretending they had nothing to do with the demise of Great Britain 1997-2010.

    Scum.

  • telemachus

    Ed Balls is a cunning dog
    The absolutely correct course here was to do a sound bite attack
    And keep powder dry on what the actual next government will do
    The Osborne review was an attempt to draw Ed
    He failed

    • Tim Reed

      “Ed Balls is a cunning dog”

      Some sort of rhyming slang I’ve missed here?

      • telemachus

        Tim beyond your gutter mind we have in Ed Balls the consummate politician the likes of whom we see once in a generation
        If he does not take the top job soon after the accession in 2015, I would be very surprised

        • Tim Reed

          …I’d be mortified !

          • telemachus

            I guess a few more of your persuasion would be too
            The country on the other hand will be glad to have a worthy successor to Churcill and Thatcher

        • starfish

          Accession? Is ed balls to be monarch?

          • telemachus

            Accession of the Government
            More accurately the party to govenment

      • http://profiles.google.com/alanmdouglas Alan Douglas

        Not quite rhyming slang, but “Ed Balls is an absolute cunn…ing dog” might fit ?

        Alan Douglas

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Yes his “the government is borrowing too much and I am going to borrow even more” routine really chimes with voters who like hypocrisy, ignorance, recklessness, incompetence and stratospheric madness. Like you!

  • HookesLaw

    Osborne did not predict the growth either. The OBR did. Has Balls looked at growth in Europe?

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