Uncut Review: Ed Balls’ speech

by Jonathan Todd

Soon after Ed Balls finished speaking to conference, Hopi Sen restated to a Policy Network fringe the core thesis of Into the Black Labour, which he co-authored: social justice and fiscal conservatism are complements. Sen praised the robustness of the fiscal rules that Balls proposes for a Labour government. But feels the party has not gone as far in explaining the practical steps that would be necessary to satisfy these rules. Balls’ speech did not take us greatly forward on this front.

The publication made by Uncut at conference last year, identifying an additional £34bn of public sector savings that might be made and reallocated to Labour priorities, remains one of the most substantive efforts made to explain how Labour might make the sums add up. Politicians like to talk of tough decisions but are often not as quick to make them. Uncut cast some light on how this might be done.

At the Policy Network fringe, Liz Kendall explained that typical doorstep questions are: What are you going to do? How are you going to be able to afford that? The point of the Uncut publication was to answer these explains, convincingly explaining how funds could be found to fund a Labour alternative. If there has been a reluctance to go as far as Uncut did, it is probably explained by Sen lamenting that additional fiscal consolidation “gets very ugly very quickly”.

Lack of engagement with these issues will not, however, make them any prettier. They are not wines that will mature but vinegars that will go off. Kendall reminded Policy Network that the OBR consider the ageing of society to be the biggest threat to fiscal sustainability. The ageing of society isn’t about to stop. The only thing that might change is our preparedness for it. Which requires honestly facing up to the issues sooner rather than later, even if this does quickly take us into ugly territory.

Margaret Hodge told Policy Network that we hadn’t had a candid debate about NHS financing. This is a debate that Uncut will be seeking to have later in the week by publishing an essay by Frank Field on how an NHS Mutual could respond to this financing challenge.

Balls provided ardour on the NHS only being safe with Labour, quickly reverting to precisely the kind of arguments that gave Yes succour in the Scottish referendum debate. Without providing detail on how Labour would achieve this. Field’s essay is an attempt to do so. Meaning that for the second conference running Uncut is going further than most to confront the world as it is, rather than how we might wish it to be.

The world as it is, sadly, is one marked by profoundly low levels of trust in politicians and deep anger at the humdrum lives that many endure. In this context, it is tough to level with people about what difficult decisions will look like and the reality that improved public services will require more from both service users and providers. But failing to do so won’t make it any easier. It will just further erode trust and build anger, compounding the challenges that a centre left party now faces.

Jonathan Todd is Deputy Editor of Labour Uncut

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4 Responses to “Uncut Review: Ed Balls’ speech”

  1. paul barker says:

    Thats all fine but you arent The real Labour are you ? Over on Labour List, the main Labour site, theres another review of the Balls speech attacking him for not promising to borrow more. Most of the comments also back more borrowing, that is the real Labour Party on the ground, they dont believe in Prudence, they want to Spend, Spend, Spend.

  2. John. Reid says:

    Paul, I don’t know if you agree or disagree with, the view to spend spend spend, but labour list, doesn’t speak fro real labour members, it comes across as a student style politics, going on a out the NHS and the enviroment, as if they feel that the public, hold their views these are the important t issues, the environment, the Scottish question aren’t important and Milibmd will win, on this because we’ve been ahead in the polls y 2% for a couple of years! I’m afraid they’ll be in for a shock! most labour members I know despite the enthusiasm and the energy we’ve got to fight a good campaign next year, secretly accept ITs not so good

  3. BenM says:

    Meanwhile in the real world, for all his bluster about deficit reduction, Osborne is BORROWING MORE.

    Because Tories (and Hopi Sen) don’t get the dynamics of a national economy and how attacking public spending in fact has very little to do with closing the budget deficit.

    We’re in a situation where a bullshitter (Osborne) is given so called “credibility” simply because he talks a good game.

    What is actually happening (borrowing climbing again) is not allowed to intrude on the Osborne myth because he says things that people think they understand, when in fact they are damagingly wrong.

  4. Tafia says:

    I just wish he (and others) would stop saying pointless sorries. An apology without an act of contrition is not worth the air used to utter it. He shouldn’t be saying ‘sorry’ – he should be saying ‘sorry and to prevent it happening again I promise you we will do X Y &Z by such-and-such a date and if we don’t I will resign’.

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