Listen to Osborne and Balls’ exchange at Treasury questions here:-
‘I hope this is not our last encounter across this despatch box,’ George Osborne said rather slyly to Ed Balls this morning at Treasury questions. ‘Because we are enjoying it.’ The Tories were in a good mood, because they’ve decided that they can now start to talk about the economic clouds lifting, and this means that they can say that everything Labour has ever said is wrong, wrong, wrong. ‘Cheer up Ed!’ Sajid Javid shouted cheerily at the shadow Chancellor as another Tory MP used their question to say that George Osborne has been absolutely correct in every decision he’s ever made.
But Osborne and Balls were also enjoying staking out their usual territory. When it came to topical questions, Ed Balls leapt to his feet, and reeled off his regular Angry Ed Balls recital that appears at every Treasury Questions. He bellowed:
‘On growth, on living standards, on the deficit, on every test the Chancellor has set himself, his economic plan has failed, Mr Speaker. Since 2010, growth not 6.9% but 1.8%, families not better off but worse off and the deficit not down to £60 billion but stuck at £120 billion. How on earth can the Chancellor now claim his economic plan has worked? After three wasted and and damaging years, doesn’t he realise he can’t just airbrush out his failure?’
George Osborne’s reply made him sound rather like a teacher asking pupils to own up to who had pinched all the red felt tip pens. The Chancellor was half in a good mood about his decision that the economy is on the up, and half in a strange scolding schoolteacher mood.
‘The Shadow Chancellor can’t airbrush out his predictions. He said the double-dip recession was even deeper than he thought, there wasn’t a double-dip recession. He said it was a complete fantasy that private sector job creation would replace losses in the public sector, they have three times over. And three months ago he said our policy would choke off the recovery. The fact is this: he cannot stand the fact that the economy is recovering, his plan would have been a dictate and let us fear that the predictions about his own future in the shadow cabinet turn out to be more accurate than his predictions about the British economy.’
He later chuckled that ‘we are enjoying the fact that he simply does not admit the mistakes that he made not only in office but in opposition and i have to say he is increasingly like Monty Python’s Black Knight defending that bridge… the limbs are falling off his economic argument and it would be a comedy if it weren’t for the fact that Labour’s economic policies were a tragedy for this country.’
And he repeatedly glanced at the clock and pointed out the length of time this session had worn on for without an apology from the Labour frontbench for their own economic record. But he took as much pleasure today in talking about Balls’ economic record as shadow chancellor (or ‘Deputy Chancellor’ as Sir Peter Tapsell accidentally called him during his customary long question about Glass-Steagall reforms) as he did in criticising what Labour did in government. Osborne clearly wants to tell voters that the evidence for not trusting Labour on the economy comes as much from what they’re saying now as it does from what they did when in government.