Labour’s solution: more growth, more Balls
Ed Balls promises a disciplined approach to the economy – but it looks like a smokescreen
DAVID MILIBAND was getting the rock star treatment in Liverpool last night while his brother Ed desperately tried to convince the Labour party that he has an alternative economic policy to David Cameron's prescription of austerity and gloom.
Ed Miliband told Andrew Marr that his speech on Tuesday - the big set-piece event of this week's party conference - will "offer people hope and optimism". He said people wanted to hear there was an alternative to the "pessimism and austerity. I am here to say there is an alternative."
So, the Miliband alternative is to go for growth, by cutting taxes through reversing the two per cent increase on Vat and paying for it by increasing the tax on bankers' bonuses.
Never mind that the figures so far don't add up. It would cost £12bn to cut Vat while the tax on bankers' bonuses would bring in only £2bn – shortfall of £10bn. Ed will doubtless explain that it can be paid for by growth.
He will be joined in this push for growth by shadow chancellor Ed Balls.
Balls has carefully laid down a smokescreen over the weekend, apologising for Labour's past economic mistakes – "Sorry about that", he actually said to James Naughtie on the Today programme this morning – vowing not to reverse George Osborne's austerity cuts and promising that Labour will henceforth run the economy with iron discipline.
But all along – as became clear by the end of his Today programme appearance – he is actually planning to borrow more in order to pay for growth.
He is due to present his five-point plan to conference at mid-day. I expect the Tories to be accusing him of flabby economics by lunchtime. (Note to Ed, photographed above at the annual Labour MPs versus hacks soccer match, it's most unwise to carry on playing footer with a beer belly.)
As for transforming Ed Miliband into the Sunshine Kid by promising to pay for more growth by more borrowing, the problem is, it's been tried before and it failed. Miliband and Balls will be reminded that Gordon Brown built the boom on growth fueled by debt and look where it got us.
Gordon's ghost is hanging around the conference like a bad smell off the Mersey. A new book by Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge to be published this week will have more anecdotes from the PM's padded cell – sorry, den - in Number Ten, where he raged and ranted that the world was out to get him.
It will also say that Gordon's private finances were as debt-laden as the country's when he left office, but that did not stop the tortured soul sending all his Number Ten suits to the charity shop in North Queensferry just so that he could say he had not profited from his office (unlike multi-millionaire Tony Blair).
On the eve of conference, there was only one star performer - David Miliband. They whooped, clapped and hollered when he finished his fringe address. It was a timely reminder that one year on after the party screwed up the leadership election, there is an alternative leader who could perhaps guide Britain back to the sunlit uplands - and it's not Ed Miliband.
Needless to say, David will be leaving Liverpool before brother Ed makes his keynote speech on Tuesday. It seems he has a date in Washington tomorrow – how convenient! ·
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