UK Politics

Ed Balls explains hesitant Autumn Statement response

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Media captionShadow chancellor Ed Balls struggled to make himself heard in a noisy Commons

Ed Balls has said responding to the Autumn Statement was like "doing a wedding speech when you don't know either the bride or the groom".

The shadow chancellor was forced to defend his performance in the Commons yesterday after many observers thought he was caught off guard.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said his hesitant start in the chamber was due to his "stammer".

But Chancellor George Osborne said that had "nothing to do with it".

"Sometimes my stammer gets the better of me," Mr Balls said.

The effect did not normally last beyond the "first minute or two" of his speeches, the Labour MP suggested, but it could be exacerbated "when I have the prime minister, and the chancellor and 300 Conservative MPs yelling at me at the tops of their voices".

He added: "But frankly that is just who I am. I don't mind that.

"What I want to do is win the arguments for what's right for Britain, for jobs, for our economy, for our deficit and for low and middle-income families in our country."

'Scene of the crime'

But Mr Balls also explained: "What happens in the House of Commons when you are responding to that statement is you have none of the figures, none of the documentation, and you have to listen to the chancellor.

"The outside forecasters were all expecting a rise in borrowing this year, because it has risen for the first seven months... it was impossible to work out in that first minute or two what was going on."

He accused the chancellor of deploying "sleight of hand" in his presentation of the UK's fiscal position.

"The chancellor decided to slip the money for the 4G mobile spectrum into this financial year, but he didn't even say that in the House of Commons," he said.

"That was the only reason... that stopped borrowing rising this year."

Later on the Today programme, Mr Osborne commented: "The Commons doesn't take Ed Balls very seriously.

"It's got nothing to do with the fact that he has got a stammer, it is because he was the chief economic adviser when it all went wrong, and he never acknowledges that.

"He never admits that he was there at the scene of the crime, and so obviously when we listen to his answers about what should happen next, we're a bit sceptical."