Sunday 28 April 2013

Ed Balls in Stoke

Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour Party and the potters' union Unity hosted a members' and supporters' question and answer session with the "most irritating man in British politics" yesterday. And as today is Ed Balls Day, there has never been a more opportune moment to look at what the shadow chancellor had to say.

On trade unions The last Labour governments did not strike the right balance between the party and its trade union support, acknowledging there was some understandable frustration on their part. Labour should never take the link for granted, nor, for that matter, trade unionist support. For instance, in 2010 the majority voted for a party other than Labour. Ed went on to say that he was proud to be financially supported by working people through their voluntary contributions to the political fund, and would be happy to debate that any day with the tax dodger-funded Conservative Party.

On Tories The Tories know they should have won in 2010 against the backdrop of economic crisis and an unpopular government, and since then they've moved into further crisis. Comparing Labour and the Conservatives, their average member tended to be older and much less active when it comes to traditional electoral campaigning. Hence, as a sign of a growing desperation, the rhetoric has switched from 'all in it together' to overtly divisive sloganeering around 'strivers' vs 'shirkers'.

On policy In contrast to the narratives pushed by the press and Labour's opponents, more policy has been announced than the Tories during the same point in the previous electoral cycle. For example, Ed cited the mansion tax, the jobs guarantee for the long-term unemployed, repealing the Tory part-privatisaion of the NHS, merging social and health care, and scrapping the energy price regulator. But he believed producing a shadow budget would be a mistake. Making spending commitments now when no one knows what the public finances will look like in 2015 is irresponsible as it is quite possible Labour would not be able to afford what it wants to do. For example, it was not until January 20th, 1997 that Labour committed itself to a set of spending plans.

On exporting jobs Asked about the local Npower operation, where rumours persist of closure and outsourcing to India with the loss of hundreds of jobs, Ed ruled out using the law to force companies to prevent the exporting of jobs. But he was for toughening up the law to ensure there is a level playing field where it comes to hiring local and foreign labour. He also believed the outsourcing trend was starting to unravel and that the savings many companies thought they would make are undermined by local difficulties and consumer backlash.

On housing Ed did not oppose 'right to buy' on principle, but agreed with ring fencing monies raised from sales for further council house building. He also said that were Labour in power now, the money raised from 4G licences would be pumped into building new homes. Reflecting on Labour's record in office, he suggested it didn't do enough for two reasons. The first, well-intentioned one, was to pump billions into refurbishing Britain's dilapidated social housing stock. This, unfortunately, came at the expense of new builds. The second mistake was the anti-council mindset many ministers had, meaning from the outset they did not trust the capacity of local authorities to deliver. Ed also used this opportunity to suggest that the large numbers of housing benefit-subsidised landlords need "looking at".

On schools Ed prefaced his comments by noting markets don't work in every area of social life, and education is one of them. As a distillation of the difference between Labour and the Tories, Labour provided resources to the most poorly-performing schools on the basis of plans to turn around their results. In contrast, Gove believes in funnelling more money to the schools that are doing well. This will enable them to expand their provision and pull in pupils from failing schools. If it works as intended, this means schools in a poor way will get worse and worse, trapping large numbers of children who can't access a better school into a spiral of failure and underachievement.

And if the Tories, or Tory/LibDem Coalition win in 2015? The overt privatisation of the NHS, a two-tier education system, further damage to Britain's economy, and a permanent blunting of its ability to compete in global markets.


Gary Elsby said...

Everyone knows that Ed Balls has one remit: The economy.

We can't commit ourselves yet, on the economy, because we don't know how public finances will be in 2015
says Ed.

Gary would have challenged him at this point.

Oh yes you do, Ed.
Your one and only remit is the economy (as it was under Gordon).
You know that by 2020, the public debt will be double what it is now.

The rest of what he went on about is by the by etc.....politics.

The truth is that ordinary Labour members have lost all power and can't change anything.
Ed came here on a 'buttering up' exercise ready in readiness for a Leadership challenge post 2015 where Yvette and him form a 'dream ticket'.


Speedy said...

Apologies for being off topic and I don't know anything about Romanians, but does this make Farage the first "mainstream" politician to make a genuinely socialist observation about immigration in 50 years?

“They know the British public are genuinely concerned about opening up the door to Bulgaria and Romania next year. They are concerned because we have one million unemployed, wages have been driven down and I’m afraid to say, a crime wave in London being driven by Romanians.”