Ed Balls: “Sometimes my stammer gets the better of me”
The Labour Party’s Media Monitoring Unit is brilliant. I much prefer to read stuff like this rather than to listen to the audio or watch on YouTube. Here is a transcript of Ed Balls on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.
Sarah Montague: You did sound a little bit thrown by that yesterday, do you acknowledge that whatever other figures look pretty gloomy, that one [borrowing] is a little bit of good news?
Ed Balls: What happens in the House of Commons when you are responding to that statement is you have none of the figures and none of the documentation and you have to listen to the Chancellor. And the outside forecasters were all expecting a rise in borrowing this year because it has risen for the first seven months because our economy has contracted this year, and it was impossible to work out in the first minute or two what was going on. And the reason is because the Chancellor decided to slip the money from the 4G mobile spectrum into this financial year, but he didn’t even say that in the House of Commons. I don’t remember that happening in the last fifteen years when I have been involved in these kinds of statements. That was the only reason, that sleight of hand, which stopped borrowing rising this year. But the important thing Sarah is …
SM: Just on that though, we heard from the IFS a while ago and they were surprised too and they made the point about the 4G, but they also said there was also an underspend by government, so it is better than people expected?
EB: But if it hadn’t of been for the 4G slip then borrowing would have risen. Borrowing was upgraded for this year, for next year, for the year after and the year after that, compared to the last plans. The national debt is higher in every year for the next four or five years. The Chancellor is borrowing over £200bn more than he said he would two years ago because the economy has flatlined and the plan has not worked and he has missed his own fiscal rules, as Fitch are now saying today. So look, I am happy to try and alight on some good news with you, but I’m not sure whether borrowing, debt and stagnation sounds very good news to me.
SM: Will you support the 1% rise in benefits?
EB: Well George Osborne wants you to use the word “benefits” because he wants to say to people what he is doing is hitting, as he calls them, the people who stay at home with the curtains drawn when others going to work. He wants to somehow pick on people he thinks are workshy and feckless.
SM: So you won’t be supporting him?
EB: Well Sarah, if you look at the facts, 60% of the people who are actually affected by that 1% freeze are in work. These are working people on tax credits …
SM: So you won’t be supporting it?
EB: Well look, we will look at the details over the next week, because we have not even seen the legislation yet. The test for me will be: is this hitting working families on low incomes, does it lead to lead to rising child poverty, and is it fair for him to take billions of pounds from low and middle income families when he is spending, Sarah, £3bn next April on a tax cut for people over £150,000? That’s the test, the fairness test.
SM: You are going to have to vote on it at some point, you have been fairly quick to judge in most of your comments, so I am presuming from what you are saying you will not be supporting this?
EB: What we will do is look at the detail. And I am not going to come on to the Today programme within 24 hours and start making ex cathedra statements about what we will do before we have studied the details. But I have to say to you I think the fairness choice is a choice which George Osborne is failing. Maternity pay cut, the top rate tax cut, where’s the fairness in that? So I am not going to give you an answer on how we will vote until we see the detail, but does it pass the child poverty test, does it pass the fairness test or is this just another George Osborne hit on lower and middle income families?
SM: If you think it is unfair then you would support the fact that another million people will now be paying the higher rate of tax?
EB: Well the thing which worries me is that George Osborne said a year ago he wouldn’t come back for more. And therefore the reason why there is more [higher] rate taxpayers being forced to pay tax, the reason why lower and middle income families are paying more is because his plan is failing. Now in this discussion you want me to say, OK well given he has failed, let’s simply discuss who will pay the price. But I actually think there is a prior question which is how do we stop this failure …
SM: You are able to say some things, I’m just asking you to say some other things. Now you might like to say them but at some point you do and if you can make certain judgements, I’m surprised that you can’t also commute sort of relatively broad sweep things. I mean for example, it is not something that just suddenly new, it is something that previous governments have talked about doing before which is to get more people paying that higher rate of tax. If you think it is unfairly on the poorest, you presumably support that?
EB: Look Sarah, I would like to see fewer people paying the [higher] rate of tax, I would like see tax rates coming down, but unfortunately the Chancellor is having to raise taxes on lower and middle income families, including people going into the top rate, because he has failed on his economic and fiscal plan. And the point I am making to you is, why is he hitting those people, while spending £3bn on a top rate tax cut. Where is the fairness in that? He doesn’t want to talk about that because he wants to try and dismiss .. he wants to airbrush that out. He wants you to forget he is going to give somebody on £228,000 £75 a week next April. But I am not going to let him forget that.
SM: Do you accept that you may have let him off the hook yesterday?
EB: No because I watched the evening news on the television and I have seen the papers today and I know that this is actually about what will happen to families and businesses in the coming months, that this is in the end about who has made the right judgements in the last two years and for the future. I think George Osborne is a Chancellor in the last chance saloon because his judgements have been so woeful and so wrong and so unfair, and it is my job to keep pointing that out and I will and …
SM: And you did your job well enough yesterday?
EB: Well look Sarah, everybody knows with me that I have a stammer and sometimes my stammer gets the better of me in the first minute or two when I speak , especially when I have got the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and 300 Conservative MPs yelling at me at the top of their voices. But frankly, that is just who I am, and I don’t mind that. What I want to do is win the arguments about what is right for Britain, for jobs, for our economy, for our deficit, and for lower and middle income families in our country. And that is more important to me Sarah than the first two minutes of an exchange with people braying over the dispatch box and I don’t apologise for one second. I’ll keep making the arguments.Tagged in: ed balls
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