The Thick of It


Monday, September 26, 2011

#Lab11 Ed Balls at conference: state is still the answer

Ed Balls attacked the Tories. His speech was well received by the conference. He repeated his attacks that rising unemployment will stop the deficit being paid off. He said that voters are not interested in Labour's previous record, they worry about making ends meet.

Balls cited Labour's mistakes when in power. Mistakes: 10 tax abolition, tougher migration controls needed, wasted spending and not enough banking regulation.

Nevertheless he went on the attack: "Don't let anyone tell you Labour went into the recession being profligate with public money". British debt was lower than elsewhere. He blamed the economic crisis on bankers, not on public spending. He blamed the worsening economic position on the Tories. He said that "austerity is an abdication of responsibility" by the government and one that hits the poorest hardest. 

He equalised Labour's mistakes with bigger Tory mistakes: included wasting billions on unnecessary NHS reorganisation, which is choking off the recovery when it needs it least.

Balls' gung-ho approach can win over people already committed to Labour. Will it win over those voters who switch between Labour and Tory? Labour needs their support to win power. That depends on who they believe was responsible for the Tory framed debt crisis. It also depends on if they believe Labour can make their lives better and protect their standard of living in the future.

Balls listed five steps he called on the government to take, which they won't. More taxes on bankers to support young people into work. Invest in infrastructure. Cut VAT on home improvements. Reverse VAT rise.National Insurance tax break for small businesses taking on new workers.

This is the first time under Ed Miliband's leadership we've heard specific commitments that takes account of the lack of money available but still offers to help people in difficult times. It is clear that he still believes the state is the answer to both the economic and cost of living problems we face.

Balls on the attack is the most ferocious member of the shadow cabinet. It is clear he can achieve the cut through with the media that perhaps his boss, Miliband, hasn't been able to. Both of them suffer from a closeness to Brown. Balls has to convince voters he has the answers for the future and that he understands the analysis of the past that says Labour didn't get it all right.

"Britain is no safe haven" under the Tories he repeated. He is clearly going to take the argument to them.

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