At least when I was criticising Nick Clegg’s pension proposals last week I couldn’t point to any hypocrisy on his part.
The same cannot be said of Ed Balls. His criticism of the government’s record on the economy coupled with his refusal to answer for the economic mis-management of the last Labour government earns that description.
I listened to his performance on the BBC’s Today programme in which Evan Davis made a sterling effort to hold him to account. There was much reference to the financial crisis as the cause of the soaring public debt and how this had affected many countries. The key question for Balls and any other member of that Labour government is: Why did you spend more than revenues during an economic boom for five years before the crisis (from 2002-07) and leave the country in the worst possible condition for dealing with it?
As for his proposals. I note that Labour would undertake a public spending review. He still can’t bring himself even to say the necessary words; that public spending would be cut. Leopards and spots spring to mind.
He says Labour would introduce a programme to build 100,000 houses using the proceeds of the 4G licence auction to fund the programme. At the same time he is talking about reintroducing the Stamp Duty holiday for property purchases under £250,000 that Alastair Darling introduced for two years in 2010. This is surely intended to encourage more people to buy houses. How will that make them more affordable? These two policies point in opposite directions, but then I would hardly accuse Mr Balls of economic competence.
Politicians of all persuasions need to learn one simple lesson on housing: in order to make it more affordable, prices have to come down.