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George Osborne and Ed Balls play it like it’s 2010

16 March 2014

George Osborne and Ed Balls have gone head-to-head in the media – the former in The Sun on Sunday and the latter in The Sunday Mirror. The two also appeared on the Andrew Marr Show. Neither man said anything new, at least not in terms of the grand narrative, which is scarcely surprising because the electoral cycle is at the stage where new ideas do not have time to gestate.

This is especially true of the chancellor. Osborne has been under pressure to raise the threshold at which people pay the 40p rate. Osborne made it very clear to Andrew Marr that the government’s tax threshold reforms had benefited 25 million people; indeed, he spoke of his pride about this reform and reiterated that it suits 40p rate payers as well as low income earners. Next week’s budget will, doubtless, contain this populist rally cry, but Osborne’s fundamental message is that he will keep calm and carry on. The recovery is underway, he said, but it is not balanced and secure and he needs to build a resilient economy where housing is plentiful (there is to be a new ‘garden city’ in the south east), jobs are safe and Britain is paying its way in the world. (This morning, Fraser explains why Osborne’s plan is foolhardy.)

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Ed Balls drew on Osborne’s admission of existing economic weakness, arguing that people are not feeling the recovery. Balls listed the various measures Labour would introduce to improve living standards – energy price freezes, childcare, the jobs guarantee and so on. Balls emphasised that all of these initiatives are properly funded; he made the point four or five times during his interview with Andrew Marr.

This emphasis is, of course, designed to reassure the British people that Balls will not be spending money that they haven’t yet earned. The Tories, incidentally, have an amusing document showing how hard Labour’s proposed banking levy will have to work to meet Balls’ numerous spending commitments; perhaps we’ll need a second City of London.

The economic debate, despite the recovery, is still dominated by the language and issues of the 2010 election – of deficits, cuts and spending. Those issues are, fundamentally, about trust – who do you trust with the public finances? Andrew Marr pressed Ed Balls to provide a clear commitment on spending cuts. Balls responded by listing Labour’s various planned tax rises; he could not name a cut – even for cuddly Andrew Marr.

On the evening of Wednesday 19 March 2014, Fraser Nelson, James Forsyth and Andrew Neil will be discussing what George Osborne’s 2014 budget means. Click here to book tickets.

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Show comments
  • Magnolia

    I listened to Pienaar’s politics on Radio 5Live this morning.
    A very lefty biased programme today and now one to chuck out.
    Highlights from Mr Balls were that the 50p tax rate would be brought back under Labour at least until the deficit is cleared.
    He did not mention at what threshold this would start.
    He also equated benefit fraud with tax avoidance in moral terms with no mention of the difference in legality between them.
    Clue for Balls, MPs make laws.
    Our Chancellor was clear on Marr that the increased personal allowance is a tax cut for everyone except “the people right at the top” earning over £100,000.
    No mention of the single income family tax penalty.
    Is greater than £100,000 right at the top?
    Does greater than £100,000 deserve to be disincentivized/punished?

  • anyfool

    Mr Blackburn you say energy freezes, childcare, the jobs guarantee and so on. Balls emphasised that all of these initiatives are properly funded.
    Do you count as not saying where the money will come from as properly funded, besides some vague reference to bankers bonus tax again, he was not asked where the money would come from, he said it was properly funded, no one pushed for any meaningful corroboration of his vacuous mumblings.
    If Labour say anything under the sun, are we to take it from your piece that what they say is gospel. incisive and forensic it is not.

    • telemachus

      Gospel, incisive and forensic
      Yor forgot fair but otherwise correct

  • telemachus

    Just look at the photograph
    Which one would you trust?

    • RavenRandom

      In truth… neither.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      George Osborne the other swine is amoral and utterly untrustworthy.

  • telemachus

    As always Balls was magnificent and Statesmanlike and Osborne had nothing to say
    So we can say with confidence Wednesday will be a damp Squibb
    Unless Osborne is tempted to give his rich friends another 5% pay rise( to compliment the 1% denied to most health workers)

    • RavenRandom

      All Balls said was we will raise your taxes.
      No surprise there from the dim-witted power hungry dissembling ego-maniac.
      Balls and Miliband out to complete the wrecking job in 2015.
      Oh… how many times have they spent a levy on bankers bonuses?

      • telemachus

        All about fairness
        The economy is improving on autopilot since Osborne tried to derail it by choking off capital spending in 2010

        • Hexhamgeezer

          Break out the Disqus Domestos ferchrisssake.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          More lies.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      As always he epitomised Labour the party of failure, mediocrity, lies, lying and liars.

    • Two Bob

      Go suck his d*ck then.

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