I’ve just caught up with Ed Balls’ interview with Andrew Marr on Sunday. It really is the most incredible performance. There’s a series of incredible statement but the pick of them is when he is asked if he thinks spending was too high under the last Labour Government and he replies:
“No I don’t. Nor our deficit, nor our national debt”.
You can argue whether spending was too high or not - it depends on your view as to whether it is good or bad for the economy for the government to spend nearly half the economic output of the country. But what is unarguable is that it was stupid of the last Government to run a deficit before the recession struck.
Labour like to pretend that the deficit is all the fault of the bankers - that everything was going fine until the banking crisis hit and that they then had no choice but to spend lots of money to save the economy. But those of us who think Brown, Balls and Miliband wrecked our economy don’t take issue with what they did once the crisis hit: our argument is about the mistakes they made beforehand during the good times. They changed the system for regulating the City and, worse, they ran a deficit (they spent more money than they were raising in taxes), so when disaster struck the deficit ballooned to record levels. If they had been running a surplus, the deficit wouldn’t have got out of control.
Virtually everyone accepts this - even Tony Blair has admitted that with the benefit of hindsight Labour got this wrong. But Ed Balls can’t bring himself to admit it.
Why does this matter? Because when you’ve lost power the one thing you have to do in order to stand any chance of getting back into power is show people that you understand why they voted you out, that you have learnt from your mistakes. Ed Balls’ comments at the weekend show that he has learnt nothing. He got in wrong and he’s still in denial about it.