Ed Balls’ interview with the Telegraph today is a demonstration of what he learnt working for Gordon Brown in opposition. He is at pains to deny that he is planning any major tax rises; he doesn’t want to give the Tories the chance to claim Labour are planning a ‘tax bombshell’. He stresses that he understands that ‘People feel they are paying too much tax already’ and emphasises that he ‘would rather all tax rates were lower’. He also explicitly rules out a National Insurance increase to pay for extra spending on the NHS and a so-called ‘death tax’.
Interestingly, Balls also restates his desire to limit EU immigration. He says he wants ‘fair movement not free movement’ of workers. Though, he is far less clear about how he would persuade other countries to make the kind of changes that he wants.
But, I suspect, that in Westminster there’ll be particular interest in his comments about Damian McBride When asked if McBride is still a friend, Balls replies ‘Of course he is.’ He says that the pair talk from ‘time to time’. In a way, this answer isn’t that much of a shock. But it is the warmest I can remember any Labour figure being about McBride since he was forced out of Downing Street in 2009.