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Labour doesn’t want to talk about today’s budget

19 March 2014

5:46 PM

19 March 2014

5:46 PM

Ed Balls has just delivered quite an odd post-Budget briefing. It was odd because he didn’t really want to criticise anything. Of course, when the Chancellor has just unexpectedly announced major reforms to the pensions system, it would be foolish for an opposition to start criticising a reform that it probably doesn’t quite understand. But the furthest the Shadow Chancellor would go was that it was ‘underwhelming’. He said:

‘Overall we thought that was pretty underwhelming: Ed Miliband had written pages of his speech which weren’t used in the end because they referred to things that might be in there but weren’t and, so, you know, he obviously had to fill the space by going on and on about Michael Gove’s comments…’

Balls explained that the speculation about a rabbit in the Budget had led Labour to suspect that there might be further moves on tax, but that this had not happened in the end. But it’s interesting that he decided to drop those comments about Miliband’s speech into the briefing. Perhaps he is still smarting from the way Labour colleagues dumped on him after his own poor response to the Autumn Statement.


Labour will vote in favour of the AME welfare cap, and will examine the pensions changes. But there was nothing the party wanted to oppose outright today other than a failure to talk about the cost of living. Labour doesn’t seem to want to say very much about today’s Budget,  be it criticism or its own thoughts on policies. As Fraser says on today’s podcast, Labour hasn’t been left with very much to say.

What the party did seem to spend a fair bit of the Chancellor’s speech doing was trying to wake up Eric Pickles. Balls revealed to us that the Communities Secretary appeared to be asleep during the Budget, and that Labour frontbenchers were gesticulating at Vince Cable to nudge him awake in case he missed local government cuts:

‘Eric Pickles fell asleep for a quite extended period of time. And Ed and I were worried because, you know, you never know whether there might have been some big cut in local government spending coming which he didn’t know about and so we just politely suggested to Vince Cable that he should wake him up. And Vince elbowed and elbowed and it didn’t seem to make any difference. So Vince was actually knocking away and Eric Pickles basically – although at one point after a third nudge from Vince Cable, Eric started to nod knowingly at the contents of the speech while still, with his eyes closed… Then I think eventually, David Cameron intervened.’

But the rabbit that George Osborne produced today was quite a mysterious one and it has clearly wrong footed Labour. Balls decided to say that ‘as John Cleese may have said, that rabbit is deceased’. Whatever creature the Chancellor did produce today, it seems to have nonplussed the opposition rather.

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Show comments
  • Sterling77

    Wobbly Red Ed Miliband’s response was probably the worst reply by any opposition leader, utterly pathetic, full of old, worn out slogans and sound bites. Today Miliband and Balls demonstrated, yet again, how financially illiterate they really are. Whilst Balls is totally delusional, Miliband is hopeless and resorts to repeating tired phrases. Labour once again can only offer financial incompetence and lack of ‘nous’. They are without credibility and cannot be trusted as they are politically, financially and socially dysfunctional. Wobbly Red Ed’s Budget response was a catastrophic car crash without constructive remarks that exposed him as totally clueless. He demonstrated his utter contempt for Parliament and the electorate with such a brazenly stupid response. It was as bad, if not worse, as the response given by Balls at the 2013 Autumn Statement. The electorate will remember Labour crashed our economy and must be kept well away from the leavers of power at all costs.


    Wow. Exclusive. Hold the front page. Clear the stone, we’re replating! Izzy says Labour doesn’t like to talk about Tory good news.
    Get a new job! You’re giving journalism a bad name.

  • Anobium Punctatum

    And labour, dont start talking about a government of the elite for the elite… who on Labours front bench went to Oxford? Ed squared!

  • Barnard

    Eric Pickles could well be suffering from Sleep Apnoea and should see his doctor

  • D Whiggery

    “‘Overall we thought that was pretty underwhelming: Ed Miliband had written pages of his speech which weren’t used in the end because they referred to things that might be in there but weren’t and, so, you know, he obviously had to fill the space by going on and on about Michael Gove’s comments…’

    Yeah right Ballsie. If Ed Miliband had written anything, he wrote it last year and he reprinted it this year. Absolute car crash of a performance.

    #labourisacancer #noreallyitis

  • McRobbie

    Apparently the labour gang think that we pensioners are the privileged…I dont feel priveged and I am over the moon that the gordon brown inheritance of destroyed pension schemes is being partly addressed. The damage done by brown balls and millibrain wont be completely resolved by osbornes positive action as many pensioners have been damaged already by browns disgraceful acts. Maybe the reason brown attacked pensioners as he did is highlighted by milliebrains view that this budget is for the he seems to have the same view as brown about pensioners and obviously would be quite happy returning to the attack if he gets his hands on our money again. Brown and labour attacked pensioners and savers and clearly the left, now “led” by milibrain, only like people who spend everything ..thats a very labour thing isn’t it?

  • Lady Magdalene

    Miliband’s response to the Budget Statement was the worst speech by a Leader of the Opposition I think I have ever heard.
    So what if he had to cut out a few pre-prepared sections because Osborne hadn’t announced what was anticipated. He should still be able to respond on the basis of what he DID hear…. instead he just released a deluge of soundbites and platitudes.
    It was embarrassing to listen to.
    Georgie-boy easily won on the day. Let’s see if it starts to unravel in 48 hours …..

  • Makroon

    More telling was the debate after Red’s rant. A few local gripes by Labour MPs, but mostly they seemed quite satisfied. Maybe they were looking forward to the day when they could finally kick out the Brown gang cuckoos, and regain some integrity in their party.

    • Two Bob

      Brownite blairite – both scum

  • ohforheavensake

    Well… there is also the point that, in terms of the wider economy (and any direct impact on people’s living standards) this budget was pretty much irrelevant. I’d guess Balls looked at the OBR’s figures (no increase in GDP per capita until 2018: growth tailing off after next year: a real-terms wage increase which disappears when you calculate for RPI rather than CPI) and thought to himself, I don’t have to say much about this.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    Bingo? Beer? Let the elderly pull out their pension pot and spend it on the same? So this was a critical moment in that famed “long-term economic plan”, huh?

    • HookesLaw

      As pensions experts have been saying on the news – there is no incentive for anyone to do any of this – but its their money anyway.
      Its poijnted out that we have had a miserable inflexible pensions regime and now given how annuities have dipped there is actually a reason for people to save for their pensions.

      Interesting to see the usual narrow minded bigots out after the budget. Nothing ever pleases this pea brained bunch.

      • Two Bob

        So anyone who challanges the tory party is a bigot?

        You really are an ar*ehole. No wonder so many people despise the tories.

    • Two Bob

      The tories come from bingobingoland.

  • toco10

    Labour has never understood finance which is why they are unable to discuss improving living standards,the wellbeing effect of personal savings,employment and job creation and the reasons why it is healthier to live within one’s means-this is why they always leave this Country in a financial mess when trusted by the Electorate.Red Ed with his puerile behaviour has just lost the 2015 Election.

  • George_Arseborne

    Isabel was there a budget today?

  • allymax bruce

    So, Eric Pickles’ falling asleep was the highlight of the Budget?

    • HookesLaw

      Only if you are a thick socialist. Or some sort of thick Nat.

      • Two Bob

        Ar*ehole. Your darling conservative party is not saviour of mankind you know.

        • McRobbie

          At least the tories never pretended they had saved the world..we all know who did though..he was labour, mad and destroyed peoples pensions along with our economy.

  • London Calling

    Yes Isabel………….silence is golden…….:)

  • Mynydd

    There will be four days of budget debate when no doubt Labour and the other opposition parties will have a lot to say. So far each of Mr Osborne’s budget speeches has fallen apart, such as pasty tax, when the red book has been examined in detail. No doubt it will happen again.

    • HookesLaw

      Keep dreaming.
      What other opposition parties?

  • swatnan

    Not saying much. Maybe Balls has something up his sleeves …. his arms.

  • Chris Bond

    “Labour doesn’t want to talk about today’s budget”

    O you wait. Business will have it’s say. Especially the pension industry. The budget was a disaster.

    1)ISA limits down £2,280
    2)Pension raid in the form of allowing the whole 75% over the 25% tax free to be taken at 20% tax.
    3)Pension bond of only £10,000 which will do nothing for those who have annuities of £100,000+.

    The whole thing was a scam.

    • HookesLaw

      The headlines I read say ISA limits raised to £15000
      Good luck to people with annuities of £100,000+. But as it happens the budget scraps compulory annuities.

      • Mynydd

        What income one would need to save for a yearly £15,000 ISA? Would be above or below average wages?

        • Christopher Horne

          In this category would fall plenty of hard working strivers saving to try to buy their first property…like my kids…

        • HookesLaw

          So what? One minute youi are complaining about the cost of living and then you complain when savings allowances go up.
          Lots of ‘ordinary’ people get lump sums which they might like to put away for a good savings rate.

        • Tony Quintus

          Depends how you choose to live, some people save their money, others have a new car every couple of years, take multiple overseas holidays and spend money like water.

        • HJ777

          £15,000 is the amount that you can put in in one year – which, if you do this, does not necessarily mean that you are able to save £15k per year.

          For example, if you are self-employed, you may wish to put the income you reserve to pay your tax bill in an ISA temporarily until you have to pay it. At present, you have to pay tax on money reserved to pay tax!

    • Riphza

      1) ISA limits are materially raised not reduced
      2) The ‘whole 75% over the 25% tax-free’ lump sum is currently paid out in form of an annuity or drawdown pension — and this is already taxed as income: so this is not a raid, but could change the timing of tax receipts if people change when they take pension benefits
      3) The Pension Bond is nothing to do with annuities; but merely a decent investment return for taxable savings for the over-65s.

      Neither a disaster nor a scam, but in my view some long overdue and mature thinking to boost savings generally and encourage long term retirement provision.

      • HookesLaw

        Its been pointed out by some experts on TV that scrapping the annuity rules should really help the pensions industry because more people might actually be encouraged to save for pensions.

    • Lady Magdalene

      I expect the pension proposals are in preparation for the withdrawal of pensioner benefits after the next GE and also as a precursor to telling people with any kind of asset that they’re going to have to fund their own long-term care.
      They will be able and encouraged to fund their long term care via insurance products – so the pension/insurance companies will be happy and the govt will (a) gain more tax revenue and (b) cut down on its long term welfare costs.