I was listening to Ed Balls on the Andrew Marr show yesterday and was staggered to hear him say that in the run-up to the recession the UK didn't have a structural deficit (a gap between what the government spends in a given year and what it raises in tax after adjusting to take account of where the economy is in the economic cycle).
The question of who is to blame for the current structural deficit is obviously highly politically sensitive. Mr Balls wants you to believe that it is all the bankers fault. Our case is that Labour were running a structural deficit for years before the recession and it was this - combined with the necessary action they took during the recession - that led to the record structural deficit that we are facing now. If they had been running a surplus - putting money aside for a raining day as they should have been doing during a period of sustained economic growth - the structural deficit now would be significantly lower.
When I got into work this morning I decided to check for myself. I found a note from the House of Commons Library dated 17th June 2010 - which cites its sources as the Office for National Statistics, the Treasury and the Office for Budget Responsibility - which shows that the UK had a structural deficit in every year from 2001/2 to 2009/10 ie in every year of the previous government once it stopped sticking to the spending plans of the previous Conservative government.
For your information, the figures (they are given as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product ie the size of the UK economy) are:
So it looks like about a third of the structural deficit was there before the recession and was clearly Labour's fault - they chose, year after year, to spend more than they were raising. The remaining two thirds was caused by the recession. To what extent that was caused by the greed of bankers, a failure of regulation by government both at home or abroad, many of us seeking to live beyond our means or a combination of all three is a debate for another day. But at least some of the blame does lie with Gordon Brown and his key advisers Ed Balls and Ed Miliband.