Speakers are Ed Balls and Edward Stourton
Ed Balls: Good afternoon Ed
Ed Stourton: Before we talk about all that can I ask you about the story that is very much leading the news today which is events in Rotherham, and the resistance of the Police and Crime Commissioner to the idea that he should resign, which is something that your Party Leadership generally, as I understand it, thinks he should do. Just seen on the wireless, in fact, that he’s still saying that he still won’t go – what are you going to do about it.
EB: Look, well it’s the view of the Labour Party, announced in the last hour, of Ed Miliband and the Labour Party that Mr Wright should stand down following what was a devastating report yesterday. A report which is devastating in its scale, so many young girls so terribly abused in Rotherham. But also because of the failures of leadership which the report identified. It’s clear over a number of years, the report says senior leaders in the Council and the Police didn’t act when they should have acted on information that they had and when you have a failing on this scale it is important that people who had leadership roles in positions of responsibility should take responsibility and it’s important that people who continue to work in areas closely related to their previous jobs, accept that they have to take responsibility as well. And clearly that applies in the case of Mr Wright.
ES: We have a terrible buzz on the line but I think we are going to press on if we can. Taking all that on board of course, but we’ve just heard from [Mr Wright], he’s just said that he’s not going to pay any attention to that and he’s staying on. Do you have a mechanism for compelling him to go if he continues to insist that’s his position?
EB: He was the lead member for children’s services for a number of years, which the report covers, where the report highlights the failure of leadership to act to protect children.
ES: I understand that and everyone understands the reasons you’ve just explained. But he’s still saying he hasn’t changed his mind what are you going to do about it.
EB: The point is he resigned in 2010 from that position; he has subsequently been elected under new legislation introduced by the new Government as a Police and Crime Commissioner. Our party opposed those PCC elections in the first place but we are where we are, the problem is that we’re operating in a different legal framework, that the Labour Party has no power to compel somebody who has been elected as a PCC to stand down. But it is absolutely our view that he should do so. That is something which has been communicated to him today, and I hope he very much reflects upon the position he is now in and the importance of leadership in these matters – we need to show that we not just in Rotherham but across the country, can command public confidence to keep children safe, lessons have got to be learned, but when you have a failure of this magnitude and catastrophe, then I think people have to take responsibility. In the case of Haringey, back in the terrible case of Baby P, when the Independent Inspectors report was published, immediately the leader of the council and the lead member of children’s services resigned. They weren’t asked to resign, they resigned because they thought they should take responsibility, and I think the same applies here with Mr Wright.
ES: Let’s move onto the economy, what is it you want to get off your chest today on the subject of exports
EB: Look I think we’ve seen from the last few weeks in particular in the middle of August the Bank of England report, the inflation report, that not only are living standards continuing to fall for working people, but the Bank of England is more pessimistic about what is happening this year, How are we going to get living standards rising for working people?How are we going to get more good jobs? Only by having an economy which delivers more manufacturing investment, more business investment and more exports. Now the Government said in 2010 their plan was to rebalance the economy, they said they would deliver a trillion in exports by the end of the decade, a doubling of exports, the figures we’re producing today from the House of Commons library show that the performance of our exports since 2010 has been so woeful that they are hugely off course for meeting their objectives.
ES: Looking at the picture more generally, couldn’t the Government – the Chancellor in particular – be forgiven for their smugness as they look across the channel at the left wing model available in France and sees pretty much flat growth, unemployment over 10% and looks at the figures here – 3.5% growth predicted this year 6.4%, I think it is for unemployment – we are doing much better than them aren’t we.
EB: Well look the difficulty George Osborne has is he always manages to project an image of smugness and complacency.
ES: but he’s got some grounds to do so.
EB: Well I’m not sure Ed if that’s right. Because we are the first Parliament since the 1870s where people will be worse off at the end of the Parliament then at the beginning. The Chancellor keeps saying to people this year ‘the economy is growing again, and everything is fixed’. Most people where I am in today in Cannock and in Nuneaton in the west Midlands are saying ‘it’s not fixed for people like me’. Well it is the case, it is the case Ed to answer your question, we are not a member of the euro, the single currency, that was a decision the last Labour government made in 2003, that was in my view, in retrospect, a very, very important decision, because we are not dragged down by the euro crisis that is hitting growth.
ES: That’s the only reason that we are growing better than the rest of Europe at the moment is it, that fact that we didn’t join the Euro, not anything to do with the Government’s policies at all?
EB: I think that the Euro decision, which has kept us out of the Euro – which is dragging France and Germany and Italy and Greece and other countries down now is absolutely the main difference between Britain and France. But if you take the period since 2007
ES: And the fact they are a socialist Government you should consider at all either?
EB: Growth is weak and sluggish Ed, in Spain and Germany and in Greece as well as in France, now the conservatives may want to say this is all the fault of socialists in France, but I think in Spain and Greece and Portugal and in other countries across the European Union, in the euro area, they know the fact that the euro area still has huge problems is a bigger deal. The fact is though, compared to 2007, France and Germany have actually still grown more than Britain. We still have the slowest recovery for 100 years; this is not an economy which is fixed.
ES: Forgive me, I must stop you there as we’ve run out of time but thank you very much indeed for joining us and apologies for that difficult line
Read Shabana Mahmood’s article on the government’s export failure at http://centrallobby.politicshome.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/shabana-mahmood-mp-figures-show-major-economic-concerns-remain/