Is there any reason to believe Ed Balls supports the Tory-led cuts agenda?
No. He said that he accepted the cuts, not agreed with them. He also said “I cannot make commitments now for three years’ time. I won’t do that. It wouldn’t be credible.”
So does Ed Balls have ideas to the contrary to the coalition government?
Yes. According to the Guardian, he said that “he was not abandoning his belief that the cuts programme was too deep, and he was willing to remain outside the political consensus on the relevance of Keynesian demand management.”
What does Ed Miliband think?
He told Andrew Marr this morning that: “If Labour was in power now we wouldn’t be making those changes. We wouldn’t be cutting as far and as fast as the government.”
He didn’t say they wouldn’t be making cuts at all, and that’s important.
What do both Ed’s really think about the public sector pay freeze?
Ed Miliband said this morning: “It’s a hard choice, but when you are faced with the choice between protecting jobs or saying the money should go into pay rises I think it’s right to protect jobs.”
This is an indication that if Labour were in power now, while they wouldn’t be cutting so hard and fast, they would effectively cut the pay of public sector workers. Owen Jones, at the Fabian conference yesterday, said that given the rate of inflation, a pay freeze effectively amounts to a cut. It is clear that this reality has Labour’s backing.
Is it political disaster?
Left wing voices from Owen Jones to Bob Crow have mentioned electoral and political disaster. This is because it looks as though Labour support the cuts agenda unreservedly – but what Ed Balls is really to blame for is talking about this in a kind of quasi-managerial way, rather than talking about this in a way that says the coalition government are making a set of irreversible mistakes.
Oddly, in an attempt to make the party’s economic message credible, they are allowing the press – from the right wingers to the left – to paint them as supportive of austerity measures that aren’t working.
So are Balls and Miliband being as bad as left wing critics are making out?
They are obviously playing the long game, which is fine, but they’ve come out looking confused. This could be the fault of the Guardian, under the political control of Patrick Wintour, who has been very tough on Labour of late.
But even judging by Ed Balls’ keynote at the Fabian conference yesterday (a watered down version of the previous day’s interview with the Guardian), he is trying to earn credibility by “accepting” a set of cuts that are not credible.
It’s true that he cannot yet promise to reverse every cut the coalition makes, but why has he not framed this in a discussion about how irreversibly damaging the government is being on the economy?