PMQs: Miliband hoist by his Balls’ petard

Let’s start with what Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor said in the Guardian on January 14th:

My starting point is, I am afraid, we are going to have keep all these cuts. There is a big squeeze happening on budgets across the piece. The squeeze on defence spending, for instance, is £15bn by 2015. We are going to have to start from that being the baseline. At this stage, we can make no commitments to reverse any of that, on spending or on tax. So I am being absolutely clear about that.

So, it was something of a surprise when Ed Miliband said at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions:

Why is unemployment rising? It is rising because he is cutting too far and too fast.

I would like to know how the Labour party can say those two things wthin four days. It would appear that Ed Balls has cut the ground from under Ed Miliband’s feet. He simply cannot credibly accuse the government of “cutting too far and too fast” when his shadow chancellor is saying “we are going to have to keep all these cuts”.

Question of the week

Labour’s David Hamilton asked:

In America, six directors from the bailed-out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae companies have been taken to court for gross mismanagement. In this country, the Financial Services Authority says that it cannot bring enforcement action against Royal Bank of Scotland because of the ongoing legal tender. Will the Prime Minister consider introducing a legal sanction of strict liability into his draft Financial Services Bill so that those responsible for the banking crisis will be taken to task?

Liberal Democrat questions

Andrew George called for the Health and Social Care bill to be shelved, and for the government to “go back to the coalition agreement and build from there”.

Tessa Munt said that mainstream terrestrial television carries adverts for online bingo at 5pm and that 31 hours and 55 minutes each week is dedicated to live casino betting and gaming…at a time when there is £1.45 trillion of personal debt in this country. She called for greater protection for consumers via Ofcom.

Uncalled for insult of the week

To Dennis Skinner (Labour), the Prime Minister rather mean-spiritedly said:

It is good to see the hon. Gentleman on such good form. I often say to my children, “There is no need to go to the National History museum to see a dinosaur; come to the House of Commons at about half past twelve.”

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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15 Comments

  • “I would like to know how the Labour party can say those two things wthin four days.”

    Without trying to support Ed Balls who I despise as a politician, it would help if you put them into context. Balls was talking about the position in 2015. At that point HIS position is that the economy would have been damaged by the coalition policy and that he would not be able to promise now to reverse cuts at that point. The extension of his proposition being that the economy would be much better if a slower pace of cuts had been implemented over the past 18 months and onwards until 2015. Therefore, I do not see the two statements as being in contradiction from their perspective when you factor in the basis of their argument.

    The problem for those of us who need to decide who to vote for is that only one course of action can be followed. Unless of course we can “pimp” a Delorean and break Doctor Emmett Brown’s space time continuum !

    This of course means that if the economy is not in the state predicted by the coalition in 2015 Labour will be able to say (whether fairly or not) I told you so.

    As the ever smug Osbourne is buttering us up for worse news to come I think we can all probably guess the arguments of the 2015 election already…

  • MacK (Not a Lib DEM) 19th Jan '12 - 10:31am

    @Paul Walter

    “He simply cannot credibly accuse the government of “cutting too far and too fast” when his shadow chancellor is saying “we are going to have to keep all these cuts”.”

    If you had read the speech properly you would have seen that there is absolutely no contradiction here. Ed Balls is still saying that the Liberal Democrats and the Tories are cutting too far and too fast. In that same speech to the Fabian Society Ed Balls says: “And while we would not have started from here — a fairer and more balanced approach to deficit reduction would not have choked off recovery and thrown borrowing plans off track — we are where we are.” Later in the speech he also says: “And as we make the argument that cutting spending and raising taxes TOO FAR AND TOO FAST risks making the economy and the deficit worse not better, it is right that we set out where we support cuts and where we would be making the tough but necessary decisions.’ Ed’s speech acknowledges that we are locked into another three years of catastrophic cuts which,of course, will effect Labour’s policies. Your government’s policies put ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN THOUSAND PEOPLE, on the scrapheap last month. That includes another 52,000 16 to 24 year olds. That’s why it was consistent for Ed Miliband to say again that you are cutting too fast and to ask you yet again, even though it is pointless, to change your disastrous course.

  • MacK (Not a Lib DEM) 19th Jan '12 - 10:34am

    In my concern for accuracy I will make the follwong correction to my previous post. “Your government’s policies put another ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN THOUSAND PEOPLE on the scrapheap in the past three months”

  • MacK (Not a Lib DEM) 19th Jan '12 - 10:39am

    @ Paul Walter.

    “Andrew George called for the Health and Social Care bill to be shelved, and for the government to “go back to the coalition agreement and build from there”.”

    Hear, hear! Well done Andrew George. And if you ever did go back to the coalition agreement and start from there you could start by democratising the PCTs, as you promised, and not abolishing them!

  • Paul McKeown 19th Jan '12 - 1:46pm

    @MacK

    Strangely enough the government cuts from 2010 – 2015 amount to 81 £B, when the Tories had promised 96 £B of cuts at the general election, whilst Labour and the Lib Dems had promised 82 £B and 80 £B, according to the IFS.

    If one accepts the IFS’s sums, then the current government is cutting LESS than the Labour Party promised in the run up to the last general election.

    Make of that what you will.

  • Tony Greaves 19th Jan '12 - 2:42pm

    Good for Andrew George.

    Tony Greaves

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 19th Jan '12 - 4:45pm

    @MacK

    Thank you for those quotes from the Fabian Society speech.

    “If you had read the speech properly…. In that same speech to the Fabian Society Ed Balls says:…”

    On a purely technical point, the quote in the post body above is, as indicated/linked, from a Guardian interview with Ed Balls published on 14th January – not from a speech.

  • MacK (Not a Lib Dem) 19th Jan '12 - 5:35pm

    @ Paul Walter

    Yes. So often people rush to judgement not on on what Labour actually says but on what the media says Labour has said.

    If you want to read the full text of Ed Balls’ speech to the Fabian Society you can easily get it off Labour List. And while you are there you might like to read the accurate text of the speech Ed Miliband made earlier in the week and then decide if Ed Balls has “cut the ground from under Ed Miliband’s feet ” as you suggest.

  • MacK (not a LibDem) 19th Jan '12 - 7:06pm

    @ Simon Shaw

    You make my point for me.

  • @Simon Shaw

    “Don’t bother with the Fabian Society speech . . .”

    I’ve been misled. I thought that for Liberal Democrats evidence was paramount!

  • Foregone Conclusion 20th Jan '12 - 1:24am

    Mack is partly true that the ‘too far, too fast’ line is compatible with what Balls said. It’s part of the argument that Labour has that if government spending cuts were introduced more slowly, economic growth would be less enaemic. Make of that what you will – I personally think that Eurozone uncertainty has a lot more to do with our current predicament than decreasing government spending. But the first bit of the sound bite is deliberately misleading. The deficit reduction strategy is ‘too fast’ – fair enough. But why ‘too far’? Labour would make more or less the same amount of cuts, they’ve said that all along, but this statement insinuates otherwise. It’s dishonest.

  • Foregone Conclusion 20th Jan '12 - 1:38am

    I might also add that when the Labour line on deficit reduction has been translated onto the ground level, it has often lost a bit of nuance, often becoming a cod-Keynesianism where every bit of public spending stimulates and pays for itself and there are no potential downsides. Although both sides are guilty of this (most egregious is the assinine ‘household budget’ metaphor), this might perhaps explain Lib Dem incredulity at the contrast between the two statements.

  • MacK (Not a Lib Dem) 20th Jan '12 - 11:04am

    @ Foregone Conclusion

    “But why ‘too far’? Labour would make more or less the same amount of cuts, they’ve said that all along, but this statement insinuates otherwise. It’s dishonest.”

    Too far, because too deep. For example,Labour have said that they would have cut 12% off Police budgets not 20% as the Coalition are doing. I think that there would also have been more selective use of taxation which would have avoided cuts too far. Unlike the Coalition which has reduced Corporation Tax. Neither would there be tax giveaways: in Ed Ball’s speech to the Fabian Society he makes the following commitment: “In our manifesto we will commit to do the responsible thing and use any windfall gain from the sale of the government’s stakes in RBS and Lloyds to repay the national debt — not for a giveaway.”

    The message I get from Ed Balls’ speech is that because of the election lock we have to endure another three long years of this government’s economic incompetence and that as an Opposition we can do very little about it. Furthermore, that despite all of this unnecessary pain, the deficit by 2015 will not have been eradicated, and will indeed have been exacerbated by the borrowing caused by the increase in unemployment. This has important implications for the Liberal Democrats’ strategy at the next election. The last time I looked you were at 7% in the polls. An unpaid debt despite all the anguish, is not going to endear you to the electorate.

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