Ed Balls turns Labour's regional policy on its head

  • 18 November 2011
  • From the section England
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For the 13 years that Labour ran the country there was a constant complaint here in the South of England.

It was that taxpayers' money (and so much of the government's tax revenue does come from the South) was being systematically siphoned off to other parts of the country.

Labour insisted they were not rewarding their key supporters in the Midlands and North, but making areas of unemployment a priority, assessing levels of health and poverty, and directing cash to where they said it was most needed.

It niggled nevertheless, but when business was booming the southern complaint was mostly limited to the need to expand our overloaded infrastructure.

Golden egg

"Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg" was the refrain I remember from the Chairman of the Regional Assembly, Keith Mitchell.

Now money is tight things have changed; there's a different mantra from government.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says we must "invest in success"

I heard Nick Clegg use an intriguing phrase the other day, he said: "We must invest in success."

Backing small and medium sized enterprises in places like Reading and Portsmouth and Basingstoke is suddenly a priority.

But where does that leave the idea of re-balancing the economy? Helping disadvantaged areas like South Wales and the North East?

When I spoke to the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls this week he confirmed that Labour are also endorsing this push for growth wherever it can be found.

His five point plan includes dumping the restriction that meant small businesses in the South East couldn't get a National Insurance tax break.

Maybe that's just part of Labour's growing awareness that they need southern votes to win again.

Or, given the speed with which he agreed that they were turning their previous policy on its head, maybe it's one more admission of another policy no longer fit for purpose.