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Labour conference: Harman rows back from her Spectator interview

30 September 2012

On BBC1 Sunday Politics just now, Harriet Harman rowed back from what she told me for this week’s magazine: that Labour would not match Tory spending plans at the next election. The change in position is significant as it shows how Labour—and Ed Balls, in particular—want to keep this option open ahead of 2015.

In 1997, Gordon Brown’s commitment to keep to Tory spending plans for two years largely succeeded in reassuring people that Labour could be trusted with the economy. Balls, who was one of the architects of this policy, is said to be interested in doing the same in 2015. The thinking is that it would take the deficit off the table as an election issue and make it harder for the Tories to claim that a Labour government would spook the markets.

But if Labour were to sign up to George Osborne’s spending plans,  I suspect there would be considerable internal opposition from Labour ranks. They are enjoying saying that Osborne is cutting too far, too fast. As Harman said in her interview with The Spectator, signing up to Tory spending plans would mean Labour abandoning its ‘ fundamental economic critique’ of the coalition. You can listen below to Harman’s conversation, which is transcribed:-

Andrew Neil: can you clear up the party line on Labour’s spending plans? You told the Spectator magazine this week that Labour would not sign up to Tory spending plans at the next election, and Shadow Chancellor Balls says he wants to keep all his options open. Who’s right, you or him?

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Harriet Harman: Well, he’s right. I mean, I think the question, fairly put to me by The Spectator, was you know, what are you going to do in 2015? And the answer to that is we have got to be absolutely certain we do not make promises we can’t keep. The economy is going from bad to worse, and therefore we will have to shape our promises and our proposals as to what we can do in the light of the economic circumstance as they prevail as we come up to 2015. And we, you know, although we’ve got forebodings we can’t actually predict that now. But what I actually answered was what we would do now, which is now we would not be doing what the government is doing, which is sending us further into recession and therefore causing borrowing to rise. So I think there was a timing thing, which was, you know, my fault.

AN: I’m not sure there was, Miss Harman, because I’ve got the full transcript of The Spectator interview here. It is quite clear you were asked about promises for the next election.

HH: Yes, indeed.

AN: The question was do you think the next election will be hard on spending? You were then asked should you do again what you did in the 1997 election? So the question was clearly about your spending plans for the next election. So can we clarify that when you told the Spectator that you would not stick to Tory spending plans come the next election, that wasn’t correct?

HH: Well, I did, I’m afraid, do what I did just earlier on a few minutes ago, which is answer a question which hadn’t been asked…

AN: I’m glad I’m not the only one to whom you answer questions that you had not been asked.

[Tannoy ends interview]


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Show comments
  • welshdai

    What must Harpersons upper crust family have thought after giving her a private education at a top school she brought home the little rat bag Dromey?

  • Wireworm

    What’s shocking is that Harman and Balls have clearly never been in a room together where Labour’s post-election spending plans have been discussed. Otherwise she would be aware of Balls’ approach.

  • michael

    Harriet muddled?… And such a competent adder-upperer, is there no end to this politician’s economic acumen?

  • David Lindsay

    Harriet Harman, eh? –

    See my comments on previous threads about this country’s courtier media covering the backs of politicians.

    • HooksLaw

      Correct about Harman and her defence of PIE. It rather undermines all labours miserable smears of Conservatives.

  • james102

    How will Cruddas’s hints of an amnesty for illegal
    immigrants play with Labour’s manual working class voters? (Yesterday’s Daily
    Telegraph.)Less of a problem in his old Dagenham constituency now that so many
    Africans have moved there, most no doubt on the electoral register.

    Never mind, I’m sure he enjoys his Notting Hill home and the
    new place in Ireland.

    His son is unlikely to be among the many in Dagenham without
    a school place.

    • Austin Barry

      How will it play? Who knows? Perhaps the Royal Geographical Society will fund an H.M Stanley-style expedition into the dark heart of Dagenham to find the Lost Tribe of Cockneys.

      • telemachus

        We want a clean week here in Manchester, untrammelled by the racial Islamophobic incitement of this parish.

      • James102

        They are in their heartlands of Essex.
        Housing Associations funded by the Housing Corporation were able to buy up the properties in Dagenham and Westminster emptied their waiting lists.
        Were ever a people so betrayed?

    • Daniel Maris

      You should never put an immigrant (like Cruddas) in charge of immigration.

  • alexsandr

    Just proves they haven’t got an original thought in them. Why does anyone give them any credibility???

    • telemachus

      Actually what it proves is just who is in charge of the labour machine now
      We can all be grateful for the charismatic one

  • David B

    Unfortunately we all know how long the 1997 promises lasted and more importantly the mess we ended up in once Brown and Balls started thinking for themselves.

    • telemachus

      The mess dear David blew in from the US
      Brown rescued the banks(theirs and ours)

      • Andy

        ‘The Mess’, as you term it, was created by that idiot Gordon the Moron Brown and that useless pile of fab called Ed Balls. They created a structural deficit of gigantic proportions. It will take more than a generation to sort out this mess.

        • telemachus

          “created a structural deficit”
          Yes so why is the first thing this stupid coaltion do cut capital spending to choke GDP to aggravate the long term situation.
          Goon Osborne has not even taken a nibble at the structural deficit

          • Coffeehousewall

            Ahh… I see that the incoherent member of the telemachus team is online at the moment. I don’t know what is worse, to imagine that telemachus represents a real person with severe mental and psychological health issues, or represents a collective who are either paid for by the Labour Party or the Spectator to generate traffic on this site. All possibilities are rather disturbing.

            • UlyssesReturns

              Whatever, I have had enough. This board is choked with lefties and numpties and is no place for Conservatives anymore. The trolls have poisoned the well. Adios.

              • PeterfromMaidstone

                Why not try the new Coffee House Wall which remains troll free.

                Www coffeehousewall co uk

                • telemachus

                  Have your credit card handy

                • Coffeehousewall

                  If anyone wants to support the new Coffee House Wall then their support is much appreciated. But of the 16,000 visitors each month only a very few do provide such support and none is demanded.

                  And of course all trolls are excluded.

              • Nicholas

                Trolls poisoning the well. A meme for what the Left have done to Britain. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Their presence here is to undermine, intimidate and disrupt. It is the same tactics they employ on the national stage. Fight them. Everywhere, any how and always.

                • IRISHBOY

                  It’s a sorry sight to see The Spectator being complicit with the trolls. The journalists here are nothing more than propagandists for whoever massages their unquestioning egos in return for access. Is it their lack of curiosity and rigour that makes them fearful of making the slightest crack in the consensus, or is it an unwritten clause in the terms of their employment?

          • HooksLaw

            I do not think that when the govt came in they cut capital spending any more than the plans of the outgoing labour govt.
            A structural deficit is caused by spending that cannot be afforded by the revenue raised. And no spending by the govt can change that.

            GDP is not being choked by a lack of capital spending and its interesting that Miliband claims the economy is going from bad to worse when in fact the underlying trend for Q2 has now been reassessed to show moderate like for like growth. A lot of wailing and moaning and bad poll results has been based on erroneous statistics.

        • DGStuart

          My guesstimate would be at least 2 generations, possibly 3, like the WWII debt that finally got paid off in 2006, if I remember correctly.

      • The Crunge

        No. Brown and Balls allowed UK public spending to proceed on the basis of wholly unrealistic and unachievable budgetary growth estimates. They also allowed an almighty expansion of personal and corporate credit which fuelled a boom which like all previous booms ended in economic contraction and a shortage of credit. The cost of bailing out Northern Rock, RBS and Lloyds, though significant, was minimal compared to this irresponsible expansion of public borrowing. No amount of ‘Charisma’ will alter these facts and no amount of ‘Charisma’ will solve the ensuing problem. Gordon Brown blamed the American banks because he had no appetite for owning up to the truth. Alistair Darling had no difficulty in recognising this fact pattern in his own memoirs as Chancellor. Indded, he spent much time fighting Brown and Balls who wanted to lay traps for the Conservatives (No VAT increase etc while pushing for NI increases). I cannot expect somebody as terminally stupid as you are to understand any of this but it is always proper to try.

        • telemachus

          No economist am I and I have to defer to experience and knowledge.
          However you have to admit that if it had not been for the SubPrime US disaster the expansion of Western economies helped by the acquiescence of the Chinese would have continued and the welfare philip organised by the Treasury teams would have succeeded. Like Norman Lamont and Major, Darling and Brown were unlucky.
          With this experience under his belt Balls will go for growth to plug the fiscal gap in a way that Osbourn who does not understand economics will not

          • David B

            I have said it before and I will say it again it is very clear you have no concept of economics

            The banking crisas happened in the UK at the same time as the crisas in USA, it was not importated here. The imported store is a fiction created by Brown, Balls, Mill E, Et all to cover there own errors

            At the time the banks were bailed out Brown told us there was no other way.

            Brown was undone by his own joke because he stayed to long

        • HooksLaw

          Labour had growth but still increased the deficit. Massively.
          They claim that growth now would reduce the deficit, which is bilge. The greater part of our deficit is due to spending by Labour which could never be covered by tax revenues and growth.
          Labour’s claims about cutting too fast and too deep are simply total lies.
          But don’t expect the BBC to point that out to them.

      • HooksLaw

        You are so thick its painful. And a bare faced liar to boot.

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