Monday, 26 September 2011
Ed Balls' Five Point Plan
Today's conference was all about Ed Balls.
Well saying that, 16 year old 'Labour Boy' Rory Weal nearly stole the show with an impassioned attack on coalition cuts in a speech that will have the papers comparing him to a young, left-wing William Hague.
But despite the competition, the Shadow Chancellor rose to the challenge today and was reminiscent of a one man machine as he went from the Today programme, to the conference and then on to the Daily Politics show with one simple, clear message: it does not make sense to cut at a time when unemployment is rising and growth is stagnating.
The day ended with Balls holding a very well attended Q&A with The Independent columnist Steve Richards in which he set out his five point plan for economic recovery. We know it was well attended because we had to compete with his event as we helped launch the Labour Faith Network at the same time next door. The queue went all the way down the hall and many people were left disappointed as the room was declared full nearly 45mins before the event started.
As we left our Labour Faith Network event I ran into an old history professor of mine from Queen Mary, who had attended Balls' Q&A and described the shadow chancellor as 'phenomenal':
"I had doubts about him last year, but he has got it spot on with the economy", he said.
And I, along with others, agree.
Although Labour did make mistakes with public spending in the past, the financial crisis we are going through at the moment was not caused by excessive spending, it was caused by a global financial meltdown that affected most of the developed world.
This is something that Mehdi Hasan argues in his book, 'Summer of Unrest: The Debt Delusion', and is a very strong argument when one considers the fact that we went into the financial crisis with lower national debt than we had in 1997, and lower than America, France, Germany and Japan.
Balls' unveiled his strategy for growth by focusing on a cut in VAT by 5% for home improvements and reverse January's VAT rise and bring it back to 17.5%. In a move that also pleased the Federation of Small Businesses Balls' pledged a one-year national insurance holiday for small firms taking on extra workers, a clear incentive to get people back to work and tackle growing unemployment levels, especially amongst the young.
Part of his plan, drawing on lessons learnt from the 1930s, also aimed to spark long term investment projects rebuilding our schools, road and transport.
Obviously Labour was not perfect with the economy. But, as forecasts are showing, the coalition government's Plan A is not working and they do not have a Plan B.
It may seem that the Shadow Chancellor does have a Plan B. Just don't call it Plan Balls.