Five key questions for Ed Balls
Ed Balls hasn’t been putting himself around for interviews yet, understandably enough, but in preparation for when that moment comes here are five key questions for anyone who bumps into the shadow chancellor over the next few days.
1. Was the last labour government borrowing too much going into the recession – that is before the slump hammered the public finances and the emergency fiscal stimulus package had to be introduced?
This was the charge laid at the door of Number 10 by no less a figure than Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, and is now, rightly or wrongly, widely accepted as being the case. Does Mr Balls agree?
2. And following on form one, why did the government rely so heavily on inflated tax revenues form the City and the housing bubble, which have now evaporated, probably for good?
Mr Balls was, after all, minister for the City an done of the people in the Government unaccountably mesmerised by the financial world and its wonders. Remember too, he gave the City its own special test in the five tests that needed to be assed before the UK would joining the euro. So he was City friendly, to say the least.
3. Is the 50p rate of income tax here to stay?
That is, is it primarily a temporary way of raising revenues to fix the deficit (though not that much). Or is it a permanent symbol of Labours commitment to social justice and “progressive” politics. Remember that it was Tony Blair that vetoed the brown-Balls idea of a 50p rate when Labour were still in opposition. Mr balls was one of the more enthusiastic about the 2001 election campaign pledge to spend more on the NHS by hiking national insurance rates, a policy that, arguably, put “tax and spend” back on the agenda.
4. Did the “tripartite”” system of regulation contribute to the financial crisis?
Many critics say the split in bank oversight between the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Financial Services authority left no-one in charge. Mr Balls was one of the architects of that.
5. Precisely how big a budget deficit should the country be running now?
Which he obviously won’t answer at all.
As it happens, and I can’t write the script for this, I reckon Balls will be Labour leader by about this time next year, thus correcting the mistake the party made collectively last year. It would also pave the way for a return for David Miliband. Job done.Tagged in: ed balls, income tax, labour, recession
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