What’s in a word? In politics, often rather a lot. The Labour party was braced this morning for a conference motion that would “condemn” pay freezes in the public sector.
The danger of this was that this – if backed by the delegates – would amount to an attack on shadow chancellor Ed Balls. At the turn of the year the shadow chancellor said he would not reverse the pay freeze because it was more important to protect jobs instead.
That piece of positioning won Balls an angry backlash from the unions, who accused him (somewhat improbably) of being one of the “horsemen of the New Labour apocalypse”.
So last night the motion said “condemn”: this morning the wording has appeared and the verb has been changed to the much more anodyne “notes”.
“Conference notes the prolonged pay freezes that mean public sector workers have had their real terms pay cut dramatically and condemns that most of the lowest-paid have not received the £250 that Osborne promised.”
You could either blame or thank the “composite” nature of Labour conference motion-writing. So Balls has not escaped a tongue-lashing from the brothers* ahead of his big speech at 12.15 – but there will be no mass vote against him.
* Dave Prentis of Unison has accused the party of being “wrong morally and wrong economically” on the issue in the Guardian this morning.