X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

Where Ed Balls went wrong

30 June 2013

8:27 PM

30 June 2013

8:27 PM

In today’s Observer, Andrew Rawnsley says that Ed Balls has become a victim of his own success. The Shadow Chancellor predicted the George Osborne ‘would smother growth by cutting too far, too fast…The coalition jeered that Mr Balls was a deficit-denier and an unreconstructed old Keynesian,’ says Rawnsley — as if this has been subsequently disproven. But rather than take a bow, poor Mr Balls has to adjust to the consequences of  Osborne’s failure by admitting even he’d have to administer austerity. So it looks like a concession! Unkind souls like Dan Hodges conclude that ‘Ed Balls is now sleeping with the fishes.’

In fact, Balls is in trouble because his first analysis was fake. The cuts were not too deep and too harsh, but he pretended otherwise because he thought it would hurt Osborne more. Even before the election, this was his plan: ramp up spending, jeer the Tories as they cleaned up the mess, promise to spend more then actually do so if the budget was balanced by 2015. He’d portray his opposite number as a crazed Tory, cutting from the blackness of his heart. The BBC, whose budget was being cut, would need no persuading that the sky was falling in. Even Osborne was exaggerating the nature of the total cuts, as it gave the coalition a sense of mission: get rid of the deficit. Yet below, we see the limit of Osborne’s cuts: a total 2.6 per cent spread over eight years. And for comparison, on the left, what Labour did last time it had to cut.

Screen-Shot-2013-06-26-at-14.49.53-558x4131

[Alt-Text]


The Balls narrative – that growth was choked by the cuts – dissolves on contact with the facts. But he chose this line of attack, because he reckoned (correctly) that no one would ever catch him out. As Peter Oborne says in this week’s Telegraph podcast Balls became Osborne’s useful idiot: distracting attention from his failure to trim the size of the state.

But Balls miscalculated. Where Osborne did cut, there was no great damage (just as, in the Labour years, the money did not help things greatly). Police spending is down, as is crime. Arts spending has crashed, and Britain’s cultural life is stronger than ever. Scores of new free schools open every year.

Osborne did, however, fail to tackle a Cuts what Cuts covergovernment machine that has grown out of all proportion to its usefulness. Instead of abolishing the deficit by 2015, we’ll have the worst deficit in the Western world by 2015. It gets worse. Over the next five years Osborne plans to trim back total state spending by a total – a total – of 0.3 per cent. (That’s in real terms: in cash terms it will rise). But it’s hard for Balls to nail Osborne for his squeamishness on cuts, as it’s the very opposite vice to the one he’s spent the last three years accusing him of.

Balls went for the fake ‘cut’ attack line because, I suspect, his bloodlust got the better of him. Now, he will manage to persuade only a handful of his dupes that the recovery was killed by vicious cuts. Anyone capable of consulting the OBR data tables will see that this is untrue. Even Paul Krugman has stopped using Britain as an example of austerity.

So Balls now has to pivot. He is having to switch from saying ‘Osborne cut too deep and fast!’ to saying ‘Osborne has failed to cut enough and balance the budget!’. He looks ridiculous in so doing. As Rawnsley concludes, Balls has lost credibility. Like a guard dog deterred by being thrown a piece of steak, Balls got stuck into what he thought was easy meat while his real target slipped away. Lucky old Osborne.

I’ll leave CoffeeHousers with the opening line from this week’s leading article:

‘The Labour party used to joke that the Tories would act as their cleaners: win, take the political pain, abolish the deficit by 2015 and then hand over a balanced budget when they lost the election. George Osborne has, at the very least, put paid to that. Whoever wins the next election could close every school, open every prison, cede Northern Ireland, close every embassy and sack every soldier, sailor and airman — and it would still not be enough to put the government back in the black.’

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close