Balls and Osborne clash in first Commons duel

Ed Balls and George Osborne went head-to-head across the despatch box at Treasury Questions for the first time today, reports Shamik Das.

Ed Balls and George Osborne went head-to-head across the despatch box at Treasury Questions for the first time today. The new shadow chancellor quizzed Mr Osborne over the poor growth figures and the government’s lack of a Plan B, with the chancellor hitting back by calling Mr Balls a “deficit denier”.

Mr Balls questioned why the snow was to blame for the poor economic figures, while in the US, which had also been hit by the weather:

“…the pace of US economic growth increased, consumer confidence was high, and unemployment fell to a two-year low. Could the chancellor tell the House, is there something different about snow in Britain, or is there a better explanation as to why the American economy grew and Britain’s economy did not?”

Adding:

“…perhaps the chancellor should have spent less time on the ski slopes of Switzerland and more time in the conference halls of Davos, listening to the American Treasury Secretary. Let me tell you what he said: he said you’ve got to make sure you don’t hurt the recovery, there are some people who like to move very quickly, to do very deep cuts in spending, but that is not the responsible way to do it…

“In June, unemployment was falling, growth was forecast to be 2.3 per cent this year, now unemployment is rising and growth has stalled. Can the chancellor tell the House, with consumer confidence falling, inflation rising, with no bank lending agreement, no plan for jobs, no plan for growth, no plan B…

“Does he really expect us to believe he can meet his forecast for economic growth this year, or will he have to stand here at the Budget in six weeks’ time and downgrade his very first growth forecast?”

Watch it:

Later in the session, shadow Treasury minister David Hanson said the investment of the Labour government had “supported jobs” and that the governent’s growth strategy was “missing”, to which Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander insisted:

“I don’t apologise at all; they maxed out the credit card, we have to pay it off.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.