Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Balls: “Labour’s opportunity starts now”

"Rightly or wrongly, there is public scepticism about Labour's willingness to take tough decisions on public spending. A big part of my task is to turn that round and win that argument."

In an interview in today’s Independent, Ed Balls argues that Labour have carefully bided their time before attempting to regain the public’s trust on the management of the economy.

Arguing that the focus is finally shifting towards lifting Britain out of its current mess, Balls claims Labour can win the debate on the economy as long as the party displays discipline and credibility. Labelling this a policy of ‘Credible Optimism’, Balls believes the opportunity is now for Labour, with the public increasingly searching for a credible economic alternative.

These themes are echoed in the exclusive interview with the Shadow Chancellor in the upcoming Fabian Review. Published on the 28th December, Telegraph columnist Mary Riddell interviews Ed Balls on Labour’s chance to reclaim the public’s faith on the economy and the challenge facing the party in regaining the kind of support that shot Labour to the 1997 landslide victory.

With Ed Balls set to make the keynote speech at the Fabian's New Year Conference, which is titled ‘The Economic Alternative’, Balls claims people are frustrated after eighteen months of failed economic policy, and have begun to ask, “What’s the alternative?” With this feeling of dissatisfaction rife, unemployment high and growth stagnating, Balls uses the article in the Fabian Review to argue for the establishment of ‘a platform of competence’ and suggests that Labour must both be willing to make the tough decisions and appear to be able to.

Coupled with this renewed focus on economic competence, Balls is using a range of media platforms to extend a hand to Liberal Democrats currently in coalition with the Conservatives. First formulating the basis of an offer in Mary Riddell’s column in the December 13th edition of the Telegraph, stating, “You could do it tomorrow. What’s happening is dangerous and against the national interest. If you can form that consensus tomorrow, I’d be part of it like a shot,” Balls mimics this call in both today’s Independent and the Fabian Review.

While unlikely to lead to a sudden breakdown of the Coalition, the offer itself might unnerve a coalition fraught with problems, most recently intensified by the undeniably incompatible views on Europe. Piling on the pressure, Balls makes it clear that any Lib-Lab pact will be one void of our Deputy Prime Minister, which could potentially lead to a scenario where in the near future Lib Dems are forced to usurp their leader. Either way, as times grow tougher, it will be interesting to see whether Balls' offer unsettles Lib Dems in the Coalition.


w macvean said...

when you start backing uk uncut stop tax havens then I will vote for you

w macvean said...

when you start backing uk uncut stop tax havens then I will vote for you

Renideo said...

I think optimism is less important than clarity. The tory message is very well established, their narrative on the roots of the crisis, on labour's profligacy and mismanagement, and their habit of tying Ed Balls in with that have been pretty successful, to put it mildly.

I'm a big fan of Ed Balls on the whole, but I think back to a Newsnight programme a few weeks ago, where they discussed the small difference in reality between labour's spending plans and the government. Now, of course, Labour would not have started from this position, and the difference between spending money on welfare and reduced tax take, and what we might call actual spending, is a real one.

But in the public's mind talk of structural deficits vs overall deficits, fallacies of composition, etc, do not have a lot of impact.

Labour is in a sense currently stuck between being labelled an irresponsible tax-and-spend party, and on the other side, simply being so close to the tories that the public don't see an alternative vision or plan at all.

That problem will not be solved with vague promises or minor pronouncements. I hope we can find a clear vision in the coming weeks.