According to the Sunday Times, poor old Shaun Woodward is getting the blame for inspiring Brown’s mendacious “Labour investment v Tory cuts” line. As if. This is the work of Ed Balls, and his trademark belief that the public can be easily fooled on such issues because their eyes glaze over when you mention statistics.
A quick chronology: when the 10 percent figure came out in my Daily Telegraph piece it was Ed Balls who seized on it (his wife did so earlier that day with the Standard) and used it in a letter to Michael Gove demanding where those 10 percent cuts would be made. He used my figure as if it were official Tory policy. Now, when you hear Balls deploy a statistical scam, it’s usually only a matter of days before Brown echoes it – which he did first on the Marr interview and then in PMQs.
On Ed Balls’ new leadership campaign website, currently posing as a personal page, he is quick to take credit for what he regards as the positive parts of Brown’s economic legacy. But it’s worth remembering that Balls bears more responsibility than almost any other person in Britain for the negative parts – the debt bubble, and the violence of the recession which was inevitably going to follow it. I have incurred the wrath of CoffeeHousers for praising Balls’ executive skills – but believe me, he ran a tight ship at HM Treasury. The civil service welcomed the clear instructions which Balls gave them: ie, conceal debt, gear up the economy, encourage a property boom and collect stamp duty and borrow your way out of every slowdown, pretend that inflation is the sole yardstick of stability.
Before Brown was handed Balls by the FT, he was struggling on the financial brief. It was Balls’ gift for financial chicanery which transformed the Brown operation – in Opposition and government. It is Balls’ attention to detail, and his understanding about the importance of spinning by numbers, that allowed Brown to run so many rings around the Tories. Damian McBride was a mere civil servant, before he was spotted by Balls from whom he learned his trade in aggressive briefing to the media. No wonder Balls feels that he should inherit the whole operation. Anyway, the Cabinet should not blame the hapless Woodward for the 10 percent lie. To paraphrase Michael Heseltine: it’s not Woodward’s. It’s Ball’s.
PS The Sunday Herald runs an interview with yours truly about all this today. Read it here