The announcement by Ed Balls today that Labour would conduct a zero-based spending review is a cute piece of political positioning by the shadow Chancellor. It allows him to sound tough—we’ll look at every piece of public spending and see if it delivers value for money, and is an olive branch to those Blairites who still moan about how the Brown Treasury blocked this idea when Labour were in power.

But the weakness with it is that it puts off these decisions until after the next election. Based on conversations with various Tories this morning, they are confident that this will make it easier for them to portray Labour as being incapable of making tough decisions on spending. I suspect we’ll hear plenty more of the analogies that Tim Montgomerie came out with this morning.

The Guardian interview is also noteworthy for the continuing effort to soften Balls’ image. Balls recalls in heart-warming / cringe—making (delete as appropriate) style how just as he was about to go in to his Grade 1 piano exam, Miliband’s office called requesting his presence at a press conference on the banks. Balls managed to get excused from that, before going on to scrape through the exam which he says was ‘so much more frightening than the House of Commons.’

Tags: Ed Balls, Labour, Public spending, UK politics