The cost of living may well appear to be a rich seam for the Labour party to mine, but it isn’t entirely risk-free. As shadow ministers talk about Expensive Things in their speeches and fringe discussions this week in Brighton, they will be aware that voters might sympathise with their theme without fully trusting that their party can fix the problem. The polls still show that voters believe the Tories are the most competent on the economy, and an easy riposte from government ministers could be ‘you stuck by us when we fixed the economy, now let us fix living standards’. The risk is that Labour appears to jump the question of the economy and go straight to living standards without gaining voters’ trust on the former. Why should they therefore trust them to fix the latter?
Ed Balls will try to address this in his speech to the party conference tomorrow. He will call for the Office for Budget Responsibility to audit Labour’s 2015 manifesto to make sure it all adds up. He will say:
‘In tough times it’s even more important that all of our policies and commitments are properly costed and funded. The British people rightly want to know that the sums add up. So we will go one step further and ask the independent Office for Budget Responsibility – the watchdog set up by this government – to independently audit the costings of every individual spending and tax measure in Labour’s manifesto at the next election.
‘This is the first time a Shadow Chancellor – the first time any political party in Britain – has ever said it wants this kind of independent audit. A radical change from what’s gone before, but the right thing to do to help restore trust in politics.’
It’s interesting that Balls includes that last sentence. The Labour party this week stands charged of damaging voters’ trust in politics because of the way some of its henchmen behaved in office. It’s unlikely that an independent audit of a manifesto is going to cancel out poisonous briefings aimed at wrecking ministers’ careers. What Balls is really trying to do is restore trust in Labour’s economic policy.Tags: Cost of living, Ed Balls, Labour, Labour conference 2013, UK politics