Ed Balls seeks to restore Labour's economic credibility


Ed Balls shadow chancellor: "In tough economic times we have to make difficult choices about priorities"

On Budget Day in just two years' time the man holding the red box outside No 11 may be Labour's Ed Balls. That will only happen if he can restore Labour's economic credibility.

Today the shadow chancellor came to the City to deliver a speech designed to do just that. His message was the same as ever and yet different.

As always he claimed that the government's austerity economics was failing and forcing ministers to search for another £11bn in cuts they never planned to make.

However, he also acknowledged that Labour would have no choice but to go along with many of those cuts and would treat them as "a starting point" for their policies in government.

In other words he was telling his party, as well as the country, that for all his talk of growth and jobs the next Labour government will find itself having to cut day-to-day spending more and tax more too - albeit according to different priorities.

Those hoping he would spell out Labour's spending plans for 2015 - the first year they might be in office - and set out his so-called fiscal rules - ie how fast he aims to reduce the deficit and Britain's debt - were disappointed. He insists that with the economy so uncertain now is not the time.

However, there was one firm commitment - Labour says that the 600,000 pensioners who earn enough to pay higher or top rate tax should no longer get the annual winter fuel allowance.

This is more symbolically significant than it is economically. After all, the party has always stressed its commitment to universalism - the idea that all get the same benefit regardless of their incomes - as a way of binding society together. Besides, as I pointed out to the shadow chancellor, it saves just £100m, which is not much more than one thousandth of the projected annual deficit in 2015.

A sign of how big a step the party regards this is the fact that Mr Balls insisted that Labour would keep the free pensioners bus pass and free prescriptions. The party remembers all too well how Gordon Brown used the threat to benefits to the elderly as a stick to beat David Cameron with at the last election.

Labour opposed the coalition's cut to child benefit for those on higher and top rate tax and still insists it was unfair. It is projected to raise 23 times more than means testing winter fuel payments. So, either Balls will have to be clear that it is a cut he can't restore, or he will have to come up with a new more affordable lower level of child benefit which all can receive.

In truth, economic credibility depends less on published plans and more on public trust. That is why Ed Balls won't stop reminding voters that the coalition's economic plans are way off course and leading to cuts they never dreamt of making.

However, he - unlike most opposition spokesman - also has a personal record to defend. For years he was Gordon Brown's chief economic adviser - in reality if not always in name. Today he insisted that Labour had not been profligate in those years.

His Tory opponents beg to differ of course and having long memories or, perhaps just access to Google, discovered that 17 years ago another shadow chancellor promised the same "iron discipline". Yes, that was Mr Brown.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

NHS: Where will the money come from?

Beneath the rhetoric there is a lot of consensus on the NHS but where will the money come from to fund the big changes needed?

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Nick


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    This man was one of the chief architects of the regulatory infrastructure which failed and precipitated the economic crisis.
    Along with Gordon Brown any credibility he ever had has long flown out the window.
    He's simply an opportunist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I know we are in a mess , but Labour will never get us out of it . , we need money to spend money, when will any party get manufacturing going stop the wage rises and keep food down , stop giving away our assets and allowing the nhs to be a world free for all. the EU costs us dear just in msp wages. so much to do and not an idea from any party, stop all expenes for lords and mps ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    "7.Redfootball 50 Minutes ago
    There may be credibility to restore among the majority of replies to the BBC today but I think under any objective critique he has enormous credibility. After all he has been consistently correct on the economy since this govt took office."

    So I am a brilliant meteorologist if I stand in the rain and state "it's raining"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Well they couldnt do any worse than the current incompetent shower?

    20. Paul Lloyd
    "Labour? The last Labour government, only they could sell gold at a loss"

    True, BUT dont you think that that is a mistake only a two year old would make-if taken only at face value?

    Fortunately for the tories people like yourself gobble up soundbites/headlines & dont look further into things like IDS "statistics"

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    A meaningless and pitiful act of gesture politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    It would take a hat full of miracles to "restore Labour's economic credibility". Mouthy Ed isn't going to cut it.

    Problem: Labour always overspends. Why would this time be different? Another problem: the unions think they're in charge of policy, Balls thinks he's in charge, and the only person certainly not in charge is Little Ed Miliband.

    Disaster waiting to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Ed Balls? Restore economic credibility?

    Was there credibility in the first place?

    Anyhow, Ed Balls comes out, says some stuff, and I always find myself thinking that Ed makes George Osbourne look far better than George actually is....

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    "Ed Balls seeks to restore Labour's economic credibility"

    He'll need to restore his own first

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    He needs a snappy punchline, one that people will believe. How about "under a Labour government, we'd probably still be better off than Greece".

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    20. Paul Lloyd
    Labour? The last Labour government, only they could sell gold at a loss.
    Yet few remember that they also sold fresh air at a vast profit. The 3G licence sales brought in billions. Vastly more than the much over-hyped gold sales.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Not doing a very good job is he !

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    When it comes to economic credibility Ed Balls is a laughing stock. GB's other economic disciple, Ed Miliband, is equally ludicrous. Both share responsibility for the mess that is blighting the life of a generation.

    As for Labour's "iron discipline" on spending, remember Liam Byrne's note left for his successor in 2010? "Dear chief secretary, I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left".

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    We need more than just sound bites to construct a viable and long-term economic policy. We need to concentrate upon the true engines of economic growth; the British public - in particular the youth of Britain. Where are the policies for us? And, I don't just mean handout carrots for heating, bus passes, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    ... under any objective critique he has enormous credibility. After all he has been consistently correct on the economy since this govt took office

    'cos he & and other Ed keep talking the economy down for political purposes. No double Dip, No treble Dip and now grass shoots of growth - the remedy may be working, he called for sugar coating. will he admit he was wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Ed and Ed; the two Brownies. For many of us previous Labour voters they are Gordon Brown's terrible economic twins boys. Whilst I have some sympathy with the diagnosis of the problem, their solutions are as abysmal as their personalities. Brother David, Alan Johnston and Chuka Uma as a leading three and Labour might stand a chance, but the 2 Brownies are not likable & have no credibility :(

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    No Politician can take the high ground on any issue of credibility..they are all in it for themselves ,

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Reality check:

    The deficit continues to go up & the total debt as a % of GDP continues to soar - nothing that any mainstream party says is doing anything about this other than papering over the cracks or maybe trimming a few quid off the edges - the message today from the dispicable Balls is no different to anything else from the Political Class. They fiddle whilst Rome burns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    15 Raven
    Correct my failure judgement is based on the impact on ordinary people. Since 1979 we have had unemployment above 1 Million considered by the Tory campaign of the time to demonstrate that the UK wasn't working.
    New Labour maintained the economic policies of the era, light touch regulation of the finance industry that resulted in the car crash of 2008.
    This lot don't know what to do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Labour? The last Labour government, only they could sell gold at a loss.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Balls crached the finance car and he thinks that by polishing the bumper of the wreck that we will consider him a good driver. I don't think so.


Page 17 of 18



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.