One of the more sombre passages in Ed Miliband’s barnstorming speech this afternoon was when he tackled the thorny issue of what a Labour government would actually do about the cuts. While both the Labour leader and Ed Balls are keen to regain the trust of the British public on the economy, they are also trying to introduce a counter-narrative to the ‘are you ready to trust Labour with your money again?‘ line that Nick Clegg produced last week. Just as George Osborne and colleagues have spent the first two and a half years selling the line that they are ‘clearing up the mess’ of the last Labour government, Miliband and Balls are now increasingly talking about the economic inheritance that a Labour government might receive in 2015.
In his speech today, the Labour leader said:
‘To be one nation, we’ve got to live within our means and because borrowing is getting worse not better, it means the cuts that this government made that we just won’t be able to reverse, even though we’d like to. And that’s why we said in this parliament that we’d put jobs over pay in the public sector and in the next Parliament we have tough settlements for the public services and that will make life harder for those who work in them.’
Ed Balls took a similar line last night when answering questions at the New Statesman fringe. He said:
‘Our inheritance is getting worse by the minute because of what George Osborne is doing.’
They are both referring to the government’s failure to tackle its borrowing problem, which as we all know, is a pretty weak line given Labour would have borrowed even more had it stayed in power. But the point is that as the Labour leadership starts to suspect that a return to government in 2015 is not implausible, those at the top are starting to prepare a narrative for the tough decisions they would have to take if they were in Downing Street. And that narrative will apparently be that Labour is ‘clearing up the mess of the last Tory government’.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.