Anyone reading Sam Coates’ interview with Ed Balls in today’s Times might be forgiven for chucking their newspaper on the floor with a chuckle, muttering about the hypocrisy of a Labour shadow Chancellor lecturing George Osborne on borrowing. Balls warns that the government’s plans to offer Royal Bank of Scotland shares to the public will add billions to the deficit. He tells the newspaper:
‘A giveaway or loss-making firesale at the current share price would and billions to the national debt at a time when poor economic growth already means borrowing isn’t coming down.’
But this is an attempt by Balls to appear fiscally responsible while making the case for ‘good borrowing’ elsewhere. His party now appears to be embracing that argument, but he knows that it carries a great risk that voters will simply read it as ‘more borrowing’, and think ‘thanks, but no thanks’. So to take what is rather a surprising stance against public ownership when he is a Labour and Co-operative MP is an attempt to show that Labour doesn’t have a child in a sweetshop attitude towards spending, and that it is worried about the deficit.