Ed Balls’ problem is his killer instinct. If he were a Twilight vampire, he’d be a Tracker: someone whose uncontrollable bloodlust takes him to places he should avoid. His position on the deficit is so extreme — more debt, more spending — that he’s pretty much isolated now. People are mocking him. John Lipsky, the acting IMF chief came two weeks ago and rubbished Balls’ alternative (as Tony Blair did) — so Balls, ever the fighter, has today given a long speech where he sinks his fangs into Lipsky and says (in effect) “I’ll take on the lot of you!”
But Balls is brilliant. Often George Osborne seems not to bother arguing, and instead seeking approval from an alphabet soup of external agencies (“I must be right, the ABCD says so!”)
Balls is in the old-fashioned business of making arguments. Good for him. But he can’t resist stretching the truth, sometimes until the elastic snaps. So a lot of what he says is
intentionally misleading. We had a lot of it in a speech today. It was so long that you almost lose the will to
live by the end of it. But we at Coffee House do love a bit of Balls — whether he’s telling outright lies, stretching the truth or just being outrageous. Say what you like about him
(and we do), he often sets the terms of debate. That’s why his claims are worth examining.
i) The fake “fork in the road”. Balls, like Brown, specialises in drawing dividing lines. He claims there is a fundamental difference between Labour’s plans, and the course Osborne has adopted. As he says: “There was a choice. On the one hand, to continue with Labour’s economic plan: maintain the emphasis on jobs and growth, while continuing a steady and balanced approach to halve the deficit in four years.