3 Jun 2013

Not playing Balls? Labour will stick to coalition spending plans in 2015-16

It’s a bit like John Waddington refusing to play Monopoly. The co-founder of battle-line politics, Ed Balls, accused George Osborne of playing games with his office by trying to set up political battle-lines and said he would not join in that game.

In a speech at Thomson Reuters’ swish Canary Wharf offices, Ed Balls said the chancellor demeaned his office by trying to put Labour on the spot with his 2015-16 spending round but then couldn’t resist the pressure to join the game and said he would be telling Labour’s shadow ministers to plan on the basis of George Osborne’s 2015-16 plans. Ed Balls left himself some room for manoeuvre – he reserves the right to make all sorts of switches within the plan and capital spending beyond coalition plans if necessary.

Ed Balls also started tip-toeing away from his number one stimulus policy – a £12bn cut in VAT. He’s preparing Labour policy for a new environment in which growth is coming back and new priorities are needed.

On Thursday, Ed Miliband will talk about wanting to “get the welfare budget down,” a mantra Labour wants voters to associate with its brand after years of being perceived by many voters as what David Cameron called “the Welfare Party.”

One Blairite MP said he was “putting out the bunting.”

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