Coffee House

Balls wants you to trust him

6 May 2012

It’s only ten days or so since Ed Balls was last quizzed by Andrew
Neil, but there he was rehashing many of the same lines on the Sunday Politics today. Among the things that stood out was this: the shadow
chancellor’s argument on the public finances is ever more cleaving into two halves. First, he accuses George Osborne of borrowing £150 billion more over this Parliament than originally
planned. (Although there’s a detail that often, conveniently, gets obscured: namely, that borrowing is still
going down year-on-year under Osborne’s plan). Second, that Balls’s plan would decrease borrowing in the medium-term even though it would increase spending and reduce tax revenues in the
short-term. His thinking is that a stimulus now would mean growth sooner, and that would improve the fiscal situation more rapidly than the coalition envisions.

Even if you have more faith in Balls’s economics than I do, it’s still a tricky argument for him to make. Rightly or wrongly, ‘We have to increase borrowing in order to decrease
borrowing,’ has a similar ring to that infamous line about Ben Tre. And then there’s the fact that Balls is expecting us to take so
much of this on trust. Today he admitted that he has ‘not costed the whole programme’ — but he seems to have costed its imaginary benefits, all right. To many viewers that will
seem evasive, bordering on the fantastic.

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Besides, there is one organisation that has run (what we know of) Labour’s fiscal plan through their calculators, and that is the Institute for Fiscal Studies. As I’ve blogged before, they reckon that if a Labour government hadn’t announced ‘additional fiscal
tightening’ after the March 2010 Budget, in the face of the continuing economic storm, then they would be borrowing considerably more in every year of this Parliament than the coalition
currently is. In their own words:

‘All things considered, it seems likely that, in the absence of the additional fiscal tightening announced since the general election, borrowing would have been on course to be closer
to £76 billion in 2016–17 than to the £26 billion that was forecast in the March 2010 Budget.’

Of course, Balls would dispute this, saying that his stimulus would create more growth than the IFS accounts for. In which case, it’s worth remembering another passage from their

‘Of course, there are uncertainties around any estimates of the impact of policy changes on overall borrowing and it is possible that some of the weaker outlook for the economy has
actually been caused by a detrimental impact of the additional fiscal consolidation announced by the coalition government that is not captured in the official estimates of the measures’
impact on revenues and spending. However, the error in estimating the size of the policy impact would have to be implausibly large to lead one to conclude that borrowing would actually have been
lower in the absence of the additional tax rises and spending cuts that have been announced since May 2010.’

Which, like I say, just leaves Balls, versus the IFS, asking you to take him on trust. Your call, CoffeeHousers.

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Show comments
  • Ridcully

    Fergus: No, I don’t consider posting comments to be work; however, I do believe that that are certain regulars who are actually employed to post on sites such as this.I find it interesting that certain regulars never seem to be around at weekends.

  • Xerxes

    The Balls idea may have some merit. If Balls would debate with the IFS on fact not rhetoric I would be interested in what he has to say.
    But as it is the moment Balls opens his mouth I turn off.
    Can the political elite not return to a debate comparison analysis and principles rather than mindless denigration based on rhetoric?
    In putting forward this approach the IFS is a beacon.

  • Fergus Pickering

    You don’t call posting this stuff work, do you? Pure recreation.

  • Ridcully

    Cuse: Are you fatbloke in disguise? Your posts seem suspiciously similar. Funny though, he doesn’t usually work weekends (or Bank Holidays).

  • Matthew

    More faith in Ed Balls than the coalition. Britain back in recession: arguably down to the current government’s fiscal policy!
    With an elected socialist in France, alongside Angela Merkel- things are about to get rough for the Eurozone and undoubtedly worse for the UK!

  • The Engineer


    “I am proud to walk the same streets as him.”

    So you and Balls are both streetwalkers then – that explains a lot!

  • smell the glove

    Telemunchkin reminds me of the time when my 13 year old daughter thought Justin Bieber was god.No matter how we explained that he was talentless she wouldn’t believe us. Thankfully she grew out of it.

  • Michael

    Reading Telemachus’ posts is becoming as hilarious as reading The Independent. He must be looking for a job on the Daily Mash.

  • Tim R

    Frankly I don’t trust any of them.

    The coalition ain’t cutting spending and just hoped growth, extra taxes and printing money would do it for them. A sort of Labour lite if you will.

    Least Balls is honest – I trust him to get it wrong all of the time. Pity is – the coalition are almost as bad.

  • Colin Cumner

    Unsure if my previous posting got through but here’s another on similar lines. Telemachus must be having us all on. How can anyone trust Balls & co after all the economic and social damage that was created by Labour when they were in power? Osborne may not be a whiz at finance either but I’d say he was light years ahead of Balls.

  • Dimoto

    Far too much time allocated to Balls’ witterings on this blog. There must be a more interesting and intelligent voice somewhere, to put an “alternative view from the left”.

    Nice quote from the IFS.
    Any chance Mr Hoskin could show it to Mr Nelson ? Might stop his continued misrepresentation of “Labour’s spending plans”.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Kinglear, it was Callaghan, not Healey. Healey was the man who wanted to make the rich people’s pips squeak. They didn’t. It’s not so easy. And even hader now when the rich are so much richer. The only answer is to kill them.

  • Cuse

    Oh, bless you.

    Oik causes the omnishambles; takes the UK into a double-dip recession this blog and others on the right denied would ever happen and masterminds the worst set of local election results seen in years…

    And you turn to attacking your old foe Ed Balls on ‘trust’.

    2 points.

    First, Balls predicted the double-dip and get it bang on.

    Second, trust doesn’t come into it. If the 2 posh-boys keep going on like this; come 2015 all that will matter to the electorate is that the new Chancellor has 4 limbs and a head and isn’t called Gideon Osborne.

  • Mike Brighton

    If Balls told me that grass is green and the pope a catholic, I’d need to pop outside to check the grass and then pop down my local catholic church to ask after the pope

  • telemachus’

    Oh my, The Crunge

    How can you say that?

    Unlike the Bullingdon mob he has sincerity oozing from every pore.

    He genuinely wants to help the folk of Britain as opposed to stuff a bit more in fat bankers pockets.

    I am proud to walk the same streets as him.

  • Alan Douglas

    Balls wants us to truss him ?

    Certainly, pass the gaffer tape.

    Alan Douglas

  • The Crunge.

    My grandmother once told me “never trust a lying bastard”. I am confident that she had Ed Balls in mind. The man is hugely responsible for creating the mess we are in and giving him the chance to solve that problem would be cataclysmically irresponsible.

  • Heartless (Romantic) Curmudgeon

    Like the H2B and his Hero – ‘He’s a straight kinda guy’

  • Ruth

    It is utterly unbelievable that anyone thinks Balls has the solution to any economic problem. He has proven his worth with Labour’s disastrous legacy. Why on earth is he given the opportunity to keep spouting on- it’s so nauseating to witness the smugness and sheer joy he’s experiencing at the moment.
    Does he honestly think we’ve all forgotten his previous influence and beliefs?
    As for telemachus’- one despairs. Lemmings / cliffs………

  • WIlliam Blakes Ghost

    ‘Trust me I’m A Politician’


    ‘Trust Me I’m A Politician and My Name Is Ed Balls’


  • AliC

    I won’t trust him. Hell will freeze over before I trust him.

    It will take this country 30 years to recover from his government’s damage to our economy by not building any power stations, letting manufacturing and genuine business stagnate, increasing the state by 750000 employees, allowing in millions of migrants who are net takers not contributors, failing to regulate banks properly, and the bread and circus policies of making house prices rise to make ordinary people borrow too much. Add on several unjust and expensive wars, the ECHR debacle and having to put up with his smug pronouncements, and no, not feeling any trust.

  • Pete Hoskin

    Tiberius: It was slightly tongue-in-cheek!

  • anyfool

    There is no Call, Balls is like all socialists, they lie even when the truth will do. on another angle Andrew Neil has developed into a less than the forensic interviewer he thinks he is, quite pathetic of him really when he cannot extract even a semblance of a straight answer from Balls. he makes the Today programme almost look unbiased.

  • kinglear

    telemachus – you clearly have a short memory of what happened the last time there was a socialist government in France – and in Greece and in the UK come to that.Balls’ braying reminds me of Dennis healey’s ” Crisis/ What crisis?” And we all know where that lead

  • Tiberius

    “Your call, CoffeeHousers”.

    Do you really need to ask, Pete? After the kicking King got from some quarters last week, you have to conclude that Balls should only be listened to on “mute”.

  • kinglear

    Trust Balls? Are you serious? The only Labour politician I would marginally trust is Alistair darling

  • Simon Cawkwell

    The notion that Balls is to be trusted is grotesque impertinence on his part.

  • telemachus’

    As you say our call.

    Listen, this man is a star.

    He has the Zeitgeist now

    Hollande has taken the Elysee.

    Greek main parties have taken a kicking.

    The people are against the boring failed Osborne-Merkel austerity.

    Balls give us a way forward which is real and exciting.

    Come on Clegg pull the plug and precipitate an election.

  • Fergus Pickering

    He just keeps on giving, doesn’t he? Have Labour really got no-one better? No, they haven’t.

  • David L

    No contest. Balls is like a cracked gramophone record. No credibility whatsoever, other than his political streetfighting skills.

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