July 22nd, 2015

The risk of fumbling the Europe poll – my first summer column for the FT

My first summer column for the FT. You can read it on the FT website at http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8033acf4-2c8d-11e5-acfb-cbd2e1c81cca.html#axzz3gdavMrHH

A national referendum is always a momentous event, and it carries monumental risks. To hold one such referendum in a generation is bold enough. Yet Britain is holding two in three years.

Last year’s referendum on Scotland’s future was destabilising; I remember well how much concern that vote caused the business community, and the paralysing impact on investment. And by 2017 the UK faces an equally seismic choice on whether to stay in the EU.

Referendums risk pitting political short-termism and emotion against long-term economic logic — never an attractive prospect for investors. Contrast that with Britain’s last big call on Europe, when the government opted to stay out of the euro. That decision was taken in cabinet, on the basis of a Treasury assessment of Britain’s long-term national economic interest.

The famous “five tests” guiding that assessment were revealed to a Financial Times reporter from the back of a New York taxi, but that is not where they were drawn up, as myth would have it. They were carefully worked out during visits to Bonn, Paris and Brussels in the year before Labour took power.

While Gordon Brown, who became chancellor in 1997, undoubtedly had an open mind as to whether the tests could be met, I suspected from the outset that they would not be. Twelve years on, with the eurozone locked in a costly crisis, the government’s decision seems sounder by the day.

If Britain were to base its judgment on whether to stay in the EU on a similar long-term economic assessment, what would the decision be? Pro-Europeans who say the economic case is unambiguous do their cause a disservice. To deny the serious economic problems involved in continued EU membership is factually absurd and politically unwise.

In economic terms, last September’s vote on Scottish independence was about whether to maintain an effective, centuries-old currency union with strong fiscal, regulatory and political underpinning. No one could say the same of the current arrangements of the eurozone, where the focus on Greece’s gaping wound is distracting attention from a whole series of maladies facing the bloc’s bigger economies.

Any feasible future for the eurozone will require a much closer union in fiscal, banking and monetary policy. While the UK will thankfully stand outside those arrangements, that undoubtedly makes it harder to maintain influence and prevent the decisions of the eurozone from damaging British interests.

On top of that, increasing labour mobility is becoming ever more necessary as a means of adjustment for under-developed EU countries, just when open migration is becoming increasingly unsustainable — politically and economically — in the UK and elsewhere.

Given all those concerns, I understand the viewpoint of pessimists who cannot see an acceptable future for Britain within Europe. I also agree with Prime Minister David Cameron’s insistence on the need for reforms of the single market, labour mobility and benefits, as difficult as they will be to deliver. But the challenges of continued EU membership do not outweigh the economic advantages and potential opportunities.

Europe is our biggest trading partner. We gain hugely from the single market’s liberal trade policies and regulatory harmonisation. Much investment in the UK by foreign companies depends on our continuing membership. And our voice in economic negotiations with America and Asia is stronger if we remain part of the European trading bloc than it would be if we were shouting on our own.

In every conversation I have ever had in America, from the White House to the wider business world, the view has been unanimous: do not leave, fight for reform and open markets from the inside.

A referendum is now unavoidable — I will be voting to stay in — but there are two problems with the government’s strategy for winning it.

The first is that Europe’s future will be determined over the next five to 10 years. There is no chance of securing meaningful treaty change in the next 24 months. Our EU partners neither have the time nor the inclination to make Britain’s needs their urgent priority. It would have been better to offer a referendum after showing that the conditions of continued membership had been met, not just on the promise of future change.

The second (and more serious) problem is the government’s reluctance to enter the debate until progress has been made towards a deal on reforms. The eurosceptics are gleefully filling the vacuum, while the pro-Europeans are hampered from making the positive case.

Yet if there is one important lesson from the Scottish referendum it is that, while campaigning on a negative may be enough to clinch the battle, it risks losing the war. The Scottish National party’s general election landslide showed how much ground they won with their appeals to youth, patriotism and optimism. ‎

The pro-EU campaign must not repeat the unionists’ mistake. It cannot just say Britain will lose jobs and influence if we leave. We have to win the argument that — despite Europe’s problems — Britain can be stronger, wealthier and more influential if we stay in and fight our corner.

The government needs to make this case now, rather than wait for the end of renegotiation efforts that in truth can only ever be a work-in-progress. Unionists allowed the agenda to be dictated by the separatists in one referendum. Twice would be truly reckless.

Posted July 22nd, 2015 by Ed
July 20th, 2015

Ed’s interview with Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special

Listen to Ed’s interview with Jonathan Agnew on Test Match Special from the fourth day of the Lords test at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02xhc2r

Posted July 20th, 2015 by Ed's team
June 17th, 2015

Ed appointed Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School for 2015/16

Ed has been appointed as a Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government Senior Fellow for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Here is the announcement – http://www.hks.harvard.edu/centers/mrcbg/news-events/news/balls

Posted June 17th, 2015 by Ed's team
May 22nd, 2015

Morley and Outwood Labour will be leading the way

It was great to see so many faces – old and new – at our GC on Friday.

Clearly the General Election was a hugely disappointing result both here in Morley & Outwood and across the country.

Locally we ran a fantastic campaign and we were a great team.  During the six weeks of the short campaign, we stuffed and delivered well over 75,000 letters and leaflets, and we spoke to over 10,000 voters on the doorstep and on the phones.

I’ve been proud to be a Labour and Cooperative Member of Parliament and I am only sorry we could not repeat our 2010 victory.

But as I said last at the count, I am sure Labour will come back more united and determined to fight for good jobs and social justice.

And Morley and Outwood Labour are showing that they will be leading the way – it’s so good that they are out again this weekend campaigning on the doorstep.

Posted May 22nd, 2015 by Ed
May 22nd, 2015

Transcript of Ed’s interview with Nick Robinson

You can watch the full interview and read Nick’s blog at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32852570

Ed Balls: Clearly I’ve got more time on my hands than I’ve had for the past 20 years, it’s only been a couple of weeks, it’s flown by. I’ve had hundreds of letters and emails from Labour voters and Tory voters – I’ve been replying to them. I’ve been trying to get fit again, get back to piano practice, my oldest daughter is doing GCSEs now. With Yvette very busy at the moment there’s a bit more time for me to spend with the family and also outside of the day to day there’s a bit more space. I’ve been thinking about and writing about economics for 20 years and there’s really big issues out there, what’s happening to secular stagnation, is the financial system sound – the development challenge which is pushing migrants into Europe – these are things where for the first time there’s real time to stand back and think and write a bit, that’s what I’m doing.

Nick Robinson: That sounds like there’s a book coming or a series of lectures, we’ve not heard the end of Ed Balls on economics?

EB: It’s a new chapter for me, and it’s a big change. I think .. you never know what’s going to be happening in the future, I’m not going to be standing for a by-election …and while you never say never I think for me the reality is the next phase for me is going to be outside of politics, but there’s ways in which you can make a difference in the world outside of Parliament and that’s something I’d like to do – who knows if there’ll be a chance to be in public service again in the future, but for me now .. out of politics is where it is.

NR: But politics has been in your blood since you left University, people will find it hard to imagine after those five years..maybe.. after a breather you won’t be back.

EB: I came into politics to make a difference, and that’s what I’ve tried to do in my life. And I think one of the really important things in life is to think about what you’ve done rather than fixate on what you might not have done. So in those 20 years I helped keep us out of the Euro, I helped Britain to have an independent Bank of England, to raise education leaving age to 18, Sure Start, the national minimum wage, changing the health service – these are all good things. We didn’t get everything right, we did some good things and I’m proud of what I’ve done and the decisions I’ve made. But it is a different chapter for me now, and there’s big issues out there in the world that I’d like to think about to write about to get involved in. I don’t know where it’s going to take me but it’s new and a change and I’m still fairly young. I’m looking forward to it, it’s exciting.

NR: So just to clarify no by-elections?

EB: No by-elections.

NR: No House of Lords?

EB: Out of politics is how I’m thinking of things at the moment.

NR: Not running a think tank?

EB: Look you never say never about anything ‘cos who knows what’s going to happen – it’s only been a couple of weeks, but I think the reality for me now is that I want to make a difference to the world outside of politics – that’s how I’m thinking about things – I’m not going to be dashing back.

NR: The big question everybody says I have to ask you is Strictly. Are you going to take to the ballroom floor?

EB: Three marathons means I am fit but am I really fit enough for Strictly? When you look at it, the people who go on Strictly, they tend to be half my age and to have played international sport or been to stage school or on the stage.

I am not sure if I am quite equipped for Strictly.

NR: Vince Cable, Ann Widdecombe did it, surely Ed Balls can do it?

EB: Errrr.., OK, OK.

NR: Let me take you back two weeks ago – many people thought you were about to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, did you – even on Thursday night?

EB: We knew it was really close, and before that exit poll all the opinion polls said the election was on a knife edge….I’m not sure if it was more than 50% but I thought it was a real possibility. So to go from that through the exit poll, that swing to the Conservatives through to losing my seat in seven hours. In 2010 I held on, I think in 2015 the Tories were as surprised as I was by what happened in my constituency and in seats across the country, so it was a big change…

NR: So within the space of a day, you went from thinking I might be standing outside No11 to being redundant?

EB: Politics is a brutal business and it is tough, as Robin Day famously said us politicians can be here today and gone today, and that’s what happens. But in the end the reason is because we live a democracy and in a democracy the people decide. And however tough it is for us individual politicians – especially if you’re fighting a marginal seat like mine – you can be here today and gone tomorrow and that is democracy. So in the end, although was hard for me, I am a symbol of the vibrancy of our democracy. And that’s something I think people are proud of, and celebrate, and although hard for me … it shows the kind of country we live in.

NR: You were also a symbol too of Labour’s defeat, some people said it was like the Portillo moment for the Tories. Does that hurt that there were people saying ‘Yes! Ed Balls has gone?’

EB: The thing which hurts is the fact the millions of people who voted for us, and many thousands of people who worked to campaign for a Labour govt were disappointed because we didn’t succeed, and we didn’t convince people that we were the right people to be in govt. And as I said on the night, such big issues for our country – whether we stay in the European Union, whether we can hold our union together, the depth of public spending cuts George Osborne is planning and the risk to the national heath service and I can’t now change that course and that direction. In that sense there are very many people who wanted us to succeed and we didn’t and my disappointment is much much more about the result about what happened to the government than anything to do with my, that is really secondary. That is how I felt in those moments, when I found out my result, I already knew what was happening in the country – and that was a much bigger deal.

NR: You knew for hours that you might lose but not days, when did you first realise that you might lose?

EB: I didn’t know that I was actually going to lose my seat until the returning officer gave us the result at 7.30 in the morning, so I had hours of uncertainty …I think the point where I knew that things were not turning out the way in which we hoped, when we knew .. was not the exit poll, it was probably results from Wrexham and Nuneaton and Swindon North about 1 in the morning which showed a swing from Labour to the Conservatives. My seat was a very marginal seat, in 2010 we just held on. I always knew if Tories had a majority I was probably a goner but the reason I travelled seven and a half thousand of miles and went to 45 seats because I was fighting to win but only when it dawned in those hours after 1 in the morning that … actually things had not gone the way anybody had expected and the conservatives might get to a majority it was that point where I started to think well maybe my seat might go as well. By then though, it was clear that Labour wasn’t going to be the govt and that was a much bigger deal for me.

NR: And your emotion when you realised that – shock, anger, tears?

EB: I’ve been around for a long time so I’ve seen wrenching political change and I’ve seen people be surprised by outcomes… a year ago, two years ago it was a really hard thing for us to do to win this election. Five years ago coming out of government after the financial crisis I think many people thought it was an impossibility. In the final weeks we fought a good campaign and we were neck and neck in the polls I think we thought there was a chance. But I think over the course of that night as the results came in we knew that chance had alluded us and it wasn’t anger or tears more a dawning disappointment and sense of loss.

NR: A loss for what might have been?

EB: Yeah of course because look we worked so hard for so long to try and win people’s trust to convince people and there were so many people relying on us to do so and even now, since the election many more people come up to me to say we’re really sorry or this is how we felt and you can feel that sense of disappointment and that’s hard because I wanted to win.

NR: You must ask yourself again and again why and – this is hard question – do you ever look at yourself and think maybe Ed Balls was one of the reasons Labour was unelectable?

EB: Of course. I mean Ed Miliband said straight after the election he took responsibility but all of us have to bear our share of responsibility. Ed was the leader I backed him as shadow chancellor 100% in the end he didn’t persuade people he could be the Prime Minister but I didn’t persuade people I could be the Chancellor either. I have to take that on the chin. People will analyse for weeks and months what happened and that’s something that still feels too early for me. I’m not going to start giving you a verdict or a judgement. That’s something I might do in future, might come back to. Not now. It’s for others to go for the instant commentary and work out the next steps for Labour and the country.

NR: You know what they say – were you just too associated with the past? In the end is the election that was still about the great crash? Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown – they’re all the lot that got us into the mess.

EB: There was a global financial crisis. I think Labour made important decision during that period to stop Britain & the world going into depression. But in the end we didn’t convince people of that argument and we didn’t convince people we were the right people to take the country forward and in the end that’s why we lost. And you know the why , the analysis of that is something that will now happen and we can all contribute to that in the future, but for me it feels too early to start making judgements about that. But I know in the end we didn’t win because we didn’t convince enough people that we were the better alternative for the future and that’s our failure.

NR: There was one question you know that was asked again and again about the past. Labour spending. Not did spending cause the crash. But did spending too much mean that you weren’t prepared for the after effects of the crash?

EB: Before 2007 it is a matter of record that we had a low level of national debt because of the decisions we had made but also we had a small deficit. People will now say that that small deficit should have had a small surplus. The reality is that would have made a small difference, not a big difference, that couldn’t have made a difference to the global financial crisis, which was a huge failure in our banking system and a failure of regulation which I have taken on the chin for the last ten years. In the end though we didn’t convince people of that argument, but I am afraid those are the facts.

NR: So you may have to go back and say ‘more spending control might have been better.’?

EB: I think it would not have made a difference to the financial crisis at all.

NR: But to your credibility? To the sense that people thought you were capable of controlling the public finances?

EB: We were very, very disciplined in our approach to public spending after 2010. Unlike other parties we didn’t make unfunded commitments.

NR: it was before though wasn’t it?

EB: We had an absolutely disciplined approach in this parliament. before 2007, we had low national debt, we hadn’t joined the euro, we’d made the bank independent, we had shed a number of jobs in the civil service through the Gershon Review, there was a small deficit, people will say there should have been a small surplus, i think that would have made a small difference, not a big difference.

NR: There might be some who look at you and say, ‘even now, he’s not willing to learn.’

EB: I think It is for me to think and reflect in the coming months and we can talk about these things, at the moment it is for the leadership candidates in the labour party to set out their positions and it is not really sensible for me to do a running commentary on the past. i always argued for what i thought was right, i have always been consistent, one of things that you learn in politics is that every day when you make a decision, a difficult decision in government or a decision in opposition about what you say, you have at the end of the day to go to bed thinking that was the right call, because you’ll live with that for the rest of your life and i have always sought to do that in everything I’ve done.

NR: You say you backed Ed Miliband 100%. There were issues – there are in any government or shadow government where you had your disagreements – are there any you want to reflect now? You argued about Labour’s attitude to business, You had your doubts about the energy price freeze. Are those lessons you want the party to learn?

EB: I think I wanted to be more pro business but I also backed Ed Miliband 100 per cent. He was the leader I was the shadow chancellor we both worked very hard and in the end neither he or I persuaded people and we need to take our responsibility for that. It’s not all on him it’s on all of us.

NR: But things like the energy price freeze spooked business didn’t they?

EB: People are going to stand back and analyse all those things in the months and years to come. I’m not going to rush to judgements. What I’m going to say to you is I accept my responsibility with Ed and with the whole shadow cabinet for the decisions we took and in the end we didn’t convince enough people,

NR: you were fighting a Northern seat against the Tories and against UKIP. you were always one of those who said take the issue of Europe and immigration seriously – some lessons for the future?

EB: I think those were big and important issues and I talked a great deal in my constituency about those matters. And as did Labour in the run up to the election, and they’re going to be big defining issues of this Parliament as well. In my constituency what happened was a collapse in the Lib Dem vote and more of those voters went to the Conservatives than we were expecting. In the end Nick Clegg had spent five years in a coalition telling Lib Dems it was better to be with the Tories and in the end I think you reap what you sow.

NR: You’d mentioned the leadership contest – lots of candidates. Presumably you’re struggling to think who to support?

EB: I’m going to be supporting and voting for Yvette of course. I think she’s brilliant and people will have a chance to see more of what she is and what she stands for and what she can do in the coming weeks. I’m not going to play any part in her campaign, that’s her campaign and her ideas and it’s not for me. I’ve got the opportunity at a time what there’s other stuff going on in our lives and for our children, to stand back while she’s busy do more for rest of family and that’s what I’m going to do but I’ll be voting for her like many other Labour members in September.

NR: You’ll be cooking?

EB: Bit of cooking of course. A bit of running. A bit of piano. And just making sure…politics is a tough world and families need support and I think one of the things I certainly learnt from my time in Government and when the children were younger you have to try harder to get the balance right. Since 2010 I always made sure I went to parents evening and we went to the school performances and were there to help kids with homework. I think it’s important to get that balance in life.

In the end when people’s careers… when something happens you don’t expect. I think probably people look back, and too often regret they spent too much time away from things that were important to them and that’s something I’ve been conscious not to let happen in our lives.

NR: Given that do you worry for Yvette- the woman you love? People say leader of opposition is the worst job in politics and it now lasts 5 years before you have a got at an election – does that worry you?

EB: In the end it’s really important what happens in the next five years, I want Labour party to come out united and more determined. And I want that to happen. We’ve learnt some lessons but also we’ve shown a unity and a vision. We’ve got a number of great leadership candidates and a really talented shadow cabinet. Having people who can lead and set out a vision is so important, not just for Labour but for the country, and I think in politics you have to take your calling when it comes and that’s what she’s doing.

NR: This is the moment for her?

EB: Yep.

NR: She is not Mrs Ed Balls – she’s always been Yvette Cooper and I’m sure that’s important to you and her. Does that give her the freedom to say the last shadow chancellor didn’t quite get that right?

EB: Of course and I think over many years she’s never been shy of telling me when I got things wrong and me the same with her. She’s her own person and has her own talents and her own backers and campaign and her own views and I’m sure she will set them out and she can do that in as forthright a way as she wants and that’s fine as far as I’m concerned.

NR: When you reflect do you think people have had caricature view of Ed Balls and maybe you’ll get the chance to show something a bit different?

EB: I think it’s really hard in politics for people to see the real you because everything is mediated through the newspaper column and through the prism your opponents can often set up, and in the end you have to have confidence in yourself and who you are and what your values are and why you do what you do, and you need people to see that and over time I think they do. I’ve had lots of emails and letters from Conservatives following election night and after my speech to say they were sorry I had lost. In life I guess you always wish you could make those speeches earlier but that’s not the way it is.

NR: Is there one lesson in this short fortnight you’ve already learnt that you think; that’s something I now understand for the future?

EB: The lesson I’ve learned are you’ve always got to be proud of what you’ve done and enjoy what you’re doing rather than fixate on what might be in the future. I’ve never had a grand plan for my career but nor have I ever felt disappointed that i haven’t done something i wanted to do. I’ve learnt to enjoy what I’m doing and be proud of what I’ve done. I think you’ve also got to make sure in politics you are always thinking about those other sides to your life outside the day to day, and you’ve always got to know every day that when you make a decision you’re doing so for the right reasons and you can that day feel comfortable that in the in months and years to come when people look back and say was that right, that you can be judged knowing with integrity you made the right call and I’ve always sought to do that.

NR: This interview isn’t the mark of a return to politics but it isn’t the mark of never again, no return to politics?

EB: I’ve been in politics in Whitehall and Westminster for 20 years because I wanted to try and make a difference to our country and the world. You never say never but for me it’s a new chapter, outside of politics, but it doesn’t mean you stop wanting to make a difference. I always wanted to be in public service that was always more important to me than wealth or the trappings of power so who knows? if there’s the chance to do something good again that helps people I will take that. But no by-elections. Out of politics. Not back in parliament – that’s how it feels at the moment.

NR: Not back in parliament ever or not till the next election?

EB: You never say never.

NR: Wait and see?

EB: Outside of politics is where I’m going next.

Posted May 22nd, 2015 by Ed's team
May 8th, 2015

My words at the Morley and Outwood count

Can I start by thanking the Returning Officer and all the counting staff, it’s been a very, very long night, so thank you to you for all staying on to finish this job here today, thank you.

Let me start by saying to my political opponents in Westminster, congratulations.

And in particular to thank the other candidates, but to congratulate the new MP for Morley and Outwood, Andrea Jenkyns.

Andrea you have fought a really decent campaign and you’ve done so in a very good way and I know you will work really hard to be the Member of Parliament for Morley and Outwood and you’ll have the support of the constituency to do that very important job. So thank you for the way in which you have conducted this campaign.

I’d like to thank all my campaign team who have worked 7 days a week for 5 years and my agent Neil Dawson and all of the team. It’s the best campaign team and I’m hugely grateful, and I’m just sorry we couldn’t quite do enough to repeat what we did in 2010.

It’s been a great honour to be the Member of Parliament for Morley and Outwood and before that for Normanton. I have found it a great privilege and we have done some important things to represent individuals in times of difficulty or hardship, but also to make advances in this constituency and in Westminster.

Any personal disappointment I have at this result, is as nothing compared to the sense of sorrow I have at the result that Labour has achieved across the United Kingdom tonight, in Scotland, but also in England and in Wales and the sense of concern I have about the future.

We will now face 5 years where questions will arise about the future of our Union. About whether or not we can stay as a member of the European Union and fight for jobs and investment. Whether we can make sure we secure our National Health Service at a time of public spending cuts. Those are real concerns to me and to many people across the United Kingdom.

Even on this very difficult night I would just like to say, I’ve been proud to be a Labour and Cooperative Member of Parliament. We have always been a party which has been internationalist, because we believe we solve problems by working with other countries to solve them. We’ve always been a party which believed in the Union, because the pooling and sharing of risk which comes with our Union underpins justice and fairness. We’ve always been the party who founded the National Health Service and will do everything we can to secure the future of the National Health Service.

Even on this difficult night, I’m sure the Labour Party will emerge in the coming weeks and months, more united and more determined. And in the next few years, I think more than ever, we will need in Parliament and across the country a Labour Party absolutely determined to stand up for working people in this constituency and in our country.

I’m confident Labour will be back. Thank you very much.

Posted May 8th, 2015 by Ed
May 1st, 2015

Ed’s response to David Cameron’s failure to rule out cutting child benefit

Ed Balls, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, responding to David Cameron’s latest interview on child benefit, said:

“After days of weasel words and prevarication David Cameron is still failing to rule out cutting child benefit and tax credits again.

“All he has said again is he won’t abolish child benefit, but he won’t deny he plans to cut it or take it away from millions of families. Everyone knows it’s impossible for the Tories to achieve their £12 billion of cuts to social security without hitting family budgets hard.

“Child benefit and tax credits are now on the ballot paper next week. While Labour will protect them, the whole country now knows the Tories will cut them again.”

ENDS

Posted May 1st, 2015 by Ed's team
April 30th, 2015

The Tories have now had two days to rule out further cuts to tax credits and child benefit – but have completely failed to do so

Over the last 48 hours the Tories have repeatedly failed to deny they are planning to cut child benefit and tax credits again if they win the election.

It’s impossible for the Tories to achieve their £12 billion of cuts to social security without making millions of working families worse off.

There is a big choice at next week’s election. An extreme and risky Tory plan that will hit family budgets or Labour’s better plan which will put working families first. Working people can’t afford to take the risk of five more years of the Tories.

Posted April 30th, 2015 by Ed
April 28th, 2015

Ed’s response to today’s GDP figures

“While the Tories have spent months patting themselves on the back these figures show they have not fixed the economy for working families.

“Tory economic policy may be helping a few at the top but for most people bills have gone up faster than wages, which are down £1600 a year since 2010. And now these disappointing figures show economic growth slowing down too. The Tories just don’t understand that Britain only succeeds when working people succeed.

“Working families can’t afford another five years of the Tories. Labour’s better plan will put working people first, make our economy stronger and ensure the recovery reaches everyone in every part of the country.

“Our plan will earn our way to higher living standards for all, not just a few. We will raise the minimum wage, cut business rates, guarantee apprenticeships for school leavers and expand free childcare for working parents. We will start building one million new homes, back renters and give first-time buyers a leg up the ladder by slashing stamp duty.

“And we will cut the deficit every year and balance the books in a fair way, while securing the future of our NHS. Unlike the Tories we have shown how we will pay for all our manifesto promises with no extra borrowing.

“The risk to families and our economy is a re-elected Tory government doubling the pace of spending cuts next year and taking Britain out of the EU. Working families and our NHS can’t afford five more years of the Tories.”

Ends

Posted April 28th, 2015 by Ed's team
April 27th, 2015

My speech in Glasgow on the SNP’s plans for extended fiscal austerity

Today is ten days until General Election day.

We meet here in the last full week of what is set to be one of the closest and most important general election campaigns we ever have faced.

At the heart of this election is a big choice.

Since I was last in Scotland, the publication of party manifestos has confirmed that the Tories are committed to extreme spending plans – bigger cuts than any other advanced economy in the next three years, spending cuts which are set to double next year.

And what the Tories won’t admit is their plans are so extreme they would end up cutting spending on the NHS.

Because countries round the world which have cut spending on this scale have cut health spending by an average of one per cent of GDP – the equivalent of £7 billion here in the UK.

When I last spoke here I set out how only a vote for a Labour Government would end Tory austerity and deliver change for working class Scots.

I argued that only Labour will deliver a higher bank levy, a mansion tax, the bank bonus tax, changes to pensions tax relief for the highest earners – which will fund extra investment for the NHS, education and jobs for young people starting this year.

Additional funds here in Scotland which will reach £800 million a year.

And I set out three reasons why the SNP could not end austerity here in Scotland.

Because the SNP do not support Labour’s progressive measures for new spending across the UK.

Because, for all their sound and fury, the fundamental truth is that the SNP are committed to a fiscal approach for Scotland which rejects the pooling and sharing of resources across the United Kingdom.

And because a vote for the SNP makes it more likely David Cameron stays in Downing Street.

SNP plans under scrutiny

Since then we have seen the SNP spending plans come under sustained scrutiny.

And we have seen the truth.

First, the comments from the SNP Deputy Leader Stuart Hosie have exposed the total hypocrisy of the SNP manifesto.

They try to claim they support Labour’s measures for fairer taxes across the UK.

Apparently they now support the additional funds for the NHS and youth jobs in Scotland, paid for by these measures.

Even though they voted against the 50p tax rate just this year in the Scottish Parliament.

And even though until their manifesto they had opposed the bankers’ bonus and mansion taxes.

But this last minute U-turn isn’t going to convince anyone that they are really progressive.

Because at the same time they are sticking to the position that they would vote to abolish the Barnett Formula…

… which is precisely the mechanism by which Scotland would benefit from these measures.

The SNP position is now utterly ridiculous.

Their manifesto commits them to vote for fair taxes at the top to provide additional funds for public services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But it goes on to make clear that on no account must these changes help Scotland – because that would mean the pooling and sharing of risk and resources across the UK, something to which they are fundamentally opposed.

And Stuart Hosie’s stark words when amongst the party faithful – revealed today – confirm it.

If these progressive measures were to apply to Scotland and deliver additional resources to Scottish public services, the SNP plan is to cry betrayal and call for another referendum.

On the grounds that full fiscal autonomy has not been delivered.

And this is the second area where scrutiny of the SNP manifesto has exposed the real truth.

We know that the SNP fiscal autonomy plan is to cut Scotland off from taxes raised in the rest of the UK.

The IFS confirmed last week that under the SNP’s policy the scale of the cuts and tax rises needed to fill the gap in the SNP plans caused by fiscal autonomy could:

“reach £9.7bn in 2019–20 (equivalent to £8.9 billion in today’s prices).”

These plans have had commentators and economists queuing up to back the IFS in saying that this would mean huge cuts and tax rises for the Scottish people and Scottish public services.

Jonathan Portes, Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, has said:

“If the SNP plan for full fiscal autonomy were to go ahead then as a number of commentators have said that would lead to very very severe austerity in Scotland.”

The STUC has warned that the SNP Government’s own accounts were “a sobering reminder of some of the risks of full fiscal autonomy.”

Indeed, when the IFS analysed Nicola Sturgeon’s spending plans, they found that they meant longer austerity, bigger cuts, more debt and less money for public services than Labour’s plans.

They rejected SNP claims that somehow Scotland could double its growth rate to close the gap.

This is what they said:

“Even closing the gap over a longer ten or fifteen year horizon would require a step-change in Scottish economic performance, and revenue generation” that is “much easier to promise than it is to deliver.”

And they rejected the claim from the SNP that delaying fiscal autonomy for a couple of years would do anything other than delay the inevitable austerity.


This is what the IFS said:

“Delaying a move to full responsibility for a few years would not on its own deal with the fiscal gap though.
Indeed, if anything, given current spending and revenue forecasts, the gap would likely grow rather than shrink over the next few years. It would remain the case that full fiscal responsibility would likely entail substantial spending cuts or tax rises in Scotland.”

“reaching £9.7bn in 2019–20 (equivalent to £8.9 billion in today’s prices).”

The SNP simply cannot hide from the facts.

The SNP plans mean longer austerity, bigger cuts, more debt and less money for public services than Labour’s plans.

Not fiscal autonomy but extended fiscal austerity.

The SNP’s priority is independence not ending austerity

Because, of course, ending austerity isn’t the SNP’s real priority.

SNP MPs aren’t going to the House of Commons to fight poverty they are going to re-fight the referendum.

Scotland faces a choice between two roads.

A road to reforming our economy so it works for working people again.

Or a road to another referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon says this isn’t about another referendum.

But her Deputy Leader – when he thought he was only taking to the party faithful – has given the game away.

SNP MPs will demand things they know we would never deliver, like an end to the Barnett formula or end to UK pensions.

That is why I say working people in Scotland need a Labour government.

They need an end to food banks.

Action which the SNP don’t support.

They need an end to exploitative zero hours contracts.

Action which the SNP does not support.

They need fair tax changes at the top like on Pensions tax relief – again something the SNP do not support.

They need a higher minimum wage.

Something that only a Labour Government can deliver.

The last thing they need is to be back into another referendum so soon.

If Scotland elects Labour MPs they will spend every day working to make things better for working class people.

We know that SNP MPs will spend every day working for another referendum.

And they will make it more likely that the David Cameron remains as Prime Minister.

Conclusion

So as we enter the final ten days of this election campaign, this is the choice.

The extreme austerity of George Osborne and David Cameron’s plan.

Extended austerity with the SNP plan.

Or a vote for change.

A vote for a Party that believes that when working people succeed, Scotland and the UK succeeds.

Only a vote for a majority Labour Government will deliver in Wales, Northern Ireland, in England and here in Scotland

A real end to Tory austerity.

A better future for Britain.

A better future for working people.

And a better future for Scotland.

That’s what Labour’s first Budget will deliver.

But only a vote for Labour in ten days will make it happen.

Thank you

Posted April 27th, 2015 by Ed