Ed Balls wanted to spend his Today programme interview talking about his plans to cut the deficit by limiting child benefit increases to 1 per cent and cutting ministerial pay by five per cent. But he had two big stories to overcome that people seem more interested in. One is his accidental wounding of a journalist, which has made front page news, and the other is English votes for English laws, which is the even bigger front page news from the Labour conference so far (and with a newsless day in the hall yesterday, who can blame journalists for going after something else?).
He tried two tactics, which rather cancelled one another out. The first was to argue that there was no ‘easy solution to our constitutional situation’, which was a suitably boring, no-quotes answer.
The second was to make a series of very quotable accusations about David Cameron’s tactics in all of this, including that this was ‘possibly the most un-prime ministerial thing I’ve seen David Cameron do’, that the Prime Minister was ‘playing an English nationalist card’ because he was afraid of Ukip and that he was ‘playing fast and loose with the whole of our Union’. Funny that, because most Scots will remember that it was all three main party leaders who appeared on the front page of the Daily Record to make a solemn vow that would change the Union dramatically, but there we go.
The Labour party needs to move its conference coverage on from ‘senior figure dodges questions on Home Rule’ and from ‘Labour can’t be trusted with the economy’. At the moment, even though it is behind in the polls on the economy, it seems to have come up with at least an answer that it can use on the latter, while flailing about on the former.