Ed Balls

Kiran Stacey

Peter MandelsonAmid the genteel surroundings of the Park Lane Hotel ballroom last night at the CBI’s annual black-tie dinner, Lord Mandelson was at his waspish best.

His keynote speech was ostensibly about Britain’s role in Europe, but he couldn’t resist throwing in a few barbed remarks about his Labour colleagues, both past and present. Departing from his pre-prepared script, the former business secretary had this to say about Gordon Brown, the man he served so closely in the dying days of the Labour government:

I can’t remember which who the member of the government was who claimed we abolished boom and bust. Well, we abolished boom…

 Read more >>

Tom Burgis

George Osborne

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the Autumn Statement.

George Osborne has missed his fiscal targets and cut corporation tax.

We’ll bring you all the day’s developments live. By Tom Burgis and Ben Fenton.

15.45: We’re winding up the blog now, but you can follow events as they unfold through constantly updating stories on the front page of FT.com

15.31: A representation of the “flamethrower of uncertainty” can be found in the documentation of the OBR. It is also known as a “fan chart”. I doubt George Osborne is a fan of it, though.

15.24: Chote speaks of the “flamethrower of uncertainty”- a favourite phrase, unsettlingly enough, of the OBR, which is a chart showing forecasts in a wide range that makes the chart lines look like a firebreathing dragon.

15.18: Chote says that the variation in the possible range in the forecast of net debt figures for the UK is a large number, but is “dwarfed by the scale of uncertainties” on the issuance of debt. I think that’s the second time he has said that in his address.

15.12: The Spectator is running a rather scary chart showing the lost output of the current “seven-year slump” in the UK.

15.07: Robert Chote, director of the Office for Budget Responsibility, is live now, going through his department’s figures that underpinned the bad news Mr Osborne has just had to deliver.

15.05: Gavyn Davies has blogged for the FT with his view on the autumn statement while the FT’s Lucy Warwick-Ching has collated some very interesting instant reaction from personal finance experts.

14.49: Hannah Kuchler on the FT’s UK desk has been keeping an eye on business reaction to the autumn statement.

She says:

The CBI, the employer’s organisation, urged the government to stick to its guns on deficit reduction to retain international credibility, saying it was no surprise that austerity would last longer than expected.

John Cridland, director-general, welcomed investment in infrastructure and support for exports, but said the proof was in the delivery. He said:

“Businesses need to see the Chancellor’s words translated into building sites on the ground.”

But the British Chambers of Commerce was less positive, declaring the statement not good enough for a country meant to be in a state of “economic war”.
The government is just “tinkering around the edges”, John Longworth, the BCC’s director general said, adding: “The Budget next March must make truly radical and large-scale choices that support long-term growth and wealth creation. That means reconsidering the ‘sacred cows’ of the political class, including overseas aid and the gargantuan scale of the welfare state. Only a wholesale re-prioritisation of resources, to unlock private sector finance, investment and jobs, will be enough to win the ‘economic war’ we are facing. The danger is that our political class is sleepwalking with its eyes open.”

14.40: Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor, just passed by the live news desk so we asked him what he thought of the autumn statement.

The Chancellor is in a hole, but the good news is that he’s stopped digging. The FT supports the government’s fiscal stance, but is there more to be done on monetary policy to boost growth? That’s the question.

14.26 Who says the British don’t like doing things the French way? Might we surmise from this tweet from the BBC’s Robert Peston’s interview with Danny Alexander, Osborne’s Lib Dem No2, that the UK’s crediworthiness might be going to way of its Gallic cousins’?

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/Peston/statuses/276330461142327296"]

Others are more chipper:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/MJJHunter/statuses/276330252601524225"]

 Read more >>

Kiran Stacey

One of Ed Balls’ big announcements during his speech on Monday was his call for the government to use £4bn of the money from the auction of the 4G mobile phone spectrum to build 100,000 affordable homes.

Even before he spoke, the Guido Fawkes blog was speculating that the shadow chancellor may have been tipped off that the government was going to do exactly this, and wanted to get out ahead of them and look like he was setting the agenda. According to Guido:

It’s well known that Balls still has ‘people’ inside the Treasury and there is plenty of speculation doing the rounds that he had got wind of the 4G auction goodies fund and has pulled a fast one on the chancellor.

 Read more >>

Kiran Stacey

Ed Balls’ speech to Labour conference was sweeping in its scope, taking in equalities, police, the NHS and education, and ending with a passage parading through Labour’s greatest hits. His passage on the post-war Labour government was stirring stuff:

Conference, our predecessors were elected that year to rebuild a country ravaged by conflict.

They faced even greater challenges than we face today: an economy enfeebled by war; a national debt double the size of ours today. And they made tough and unpopular decisions: to continue with rationing; to cut defence spending; and to introduce prescription charges.
But that Labour Cabinet also remained focussed on the long-term task ahead. And they learned from history and rejected the failed austerity of the 1930s.

And that meant they could put in place long-term reforms, enduring achievements, vital to our country’s future: the Beveridge report; new homes for heroes; the school leaving age raised; and, for the first time ever, a National Health Service free to all, based on need not ability to pay – over 60 years later, celebrated in our Olympics opening ceremony for all the world to see, still today the greatest health service in the world.

 Read more >>

Kiran Stacey

George Osborne with Jun Azumi, the Japanese finance minister

Osborne with Jun Azumi, Japanese finance minister

George Osborne has been in the far east this week – probably the best place to be when the IMF announced it would ask member countries for an extra $500bn in funding. This would probably involve another €30bn from the UK – a request that would have to be approved by parliament.

This request is tricky for the chancellor. He wants to play his role as a responsible world leader and help the Fund fight the various economic crises gripping global markets – after all, a collapse of the eurozone (for instance) would have serious implications for the UK too.

The problem is, his own MPs see this as a backdoor bailout for the eurozone. They say that as the UK is not a part of the currency bloc, it shouldn’t be forced into rescuing it when it fails. And Cameron and Osborne have both made much political capital out of not signing up to the expanded European rescue fund, the EFSF. Many Tories therefore see this as both a cop-out and hypocrisy. Read more >>

Kiran Stacey

Ed BallsEd Balls’s flagship announcement at his party conference speech was a “five-point plan for growth”. Some of the policies were old, some were new. He said that if Labour was in power it would:

  1. Repeat last year’s bank bonus tax, using the money to build 25,000 affordable homes and guarantee a job for 100,000 young people;
  2. Bring forward long-term investment projects, such as schools, roads and transport;
  3. Reverse the VAT rise now for a temporary period;
  4. An immediate one-year cut in VAT to 5 per cent on home improvements, repairs and maintenance;
  5. A one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers.

 Read more >>

Jim Pickard

Tonight’s Telegraph splash is in one aspect sensational: how on earth did they get hold of Ed Balls’ private correspondence? (UPDATE: He left the documents in his old desk at the Department of Education. Sir Gus O’Donnell is set to order an inquiry into the leak, according to Politicshome.)

In another, it is less so: The letters show that the Brownites were agitating to wrest Tony Blair’s hands from the keys to 10 Downing Street six years ago, if not earlier; this we already knew. Not least because it was a very public Brownite coup by half a dozen government aides, led by Tom Watson, who finally held the gun to Blair’s head and forced him to put a timeline on his departure. The poisonous relationships at the heart of New Labour has been well documented by Andrew Rawnsley and countless others. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

One of the flagship proposals in Ed Miliband’s policy manifesto is his plan for a “living wage” which would mean workers getting no less than £7.60 an hour (we’ve looked at it before here). This would not be imposed on companies by law. Instead they would be offered tax breaks in return for instigating the policy.

Mili-E (pictured) claims this would not cost anything because there would be a corresponding fall in the cost of tax credits and benefits. The problem is, he has not produced any costings to show how this maths would work. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

In a keynote speech at Bloomberg HQ on Friday Ed Balls will lay into the coalition in a way that exceeds anything we have heard before.

He will warn that “a hurricane is about to hit” Britain’s economy, in the most dramatic warning yet by a Labour politician that the coalition’s deficit reduction programme could prompt a double-dip recession.

Balls will label George Osborne, chancellor, as a “growth denier”, who is ignoring warning signs of a global slowdown. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

Over at Left Foot Forward they have an interview with Labour leadership contender Ed Balls where he has a not-to-subtle dig at the Brothers Mili-E/D.

1] He tells them to stop trying to split the British public into pointless demographic segments. 2] He suggests that he was battling Tory cuts while they were wandering around harvesting CLP backing. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

A postscript to my earlier blog about the Balls campaign being on the ropes.

Here is a YouGov poll of Labour members from mid-way in the deputy leadership race in 2007 which turned out to be spectacularly wrong. It’s worth bearing in mind. Read more >>

Jim Pickard

Ed Balls is in a bind.

On the one hand he has been the most effective member of the shadow cabinet in recent weeks, successfully landing punch after punch on the coalition over the Building Schools for the Future programme.

On the other his leadership campaign is running into the sand. In a poll last night for the Sun he came in fifth behind all the other candidates, with just 11 per cent of those polled (against 37 per cent for David M and 29 per cent for Ed M). It seems that Labour supporters haven’t warmed to him.

So what to do? If Balls swings his weight behind one of the brothers he could give significant momentum to that candidate and therefore secure the shadow chancellorship as a reward. If he stays in the contest and comes third he might get that job anyway. But if he comes in fifth the winner is under no obvious obligation to give him that plum role, for which he is qualified and would no doubt want. Read more >>