Labour’s defence of their economic record has gone unheard, not unsaid

Balls and Miliband have repeatedly explained the crisis in terms of the global crash - but they still face accusations of evasion


Financial Times commentators John Hutton and Alan Milburn have hit out at Labour today for failing to defend their economic record. They write that ‘the Tory charge against the last Labour government – that the economy was wrecked because the public finances spiralled out of control – is holding sway over voters’.

Balls and Miliband, they write, have ‘foolishly’ let the Tories claim this without opposition, despite the fact that the last Labour government ‘could be considered one of the most prudent of modern times’.

The fact is though, that both the Labour leader and shadow chancellor have defended their record, uncompromisingly, on numerous occasions.

In January 2014, Ed Balls appeared on the Andrew Marr Show in defence of Labour’s pre-crash spending:

“Do I think the level of public spending going into the crisis was a problem for Britain? No, I don’t, nor our deficit, nor our national debt – what happened was a global financial crisis which pushed up the deficit.

The question then was ‘who can get the deficit down?’ – George Osborne choked off the recovery, a recovery Labour had delivered but it wasn’t caused by public spending in Britain and that’s just the truth.”

Balls also told Marr in 2011 that ‘apart from the Tories, nobody thinks that spending caused this downturn. It was a global financial crisis.’

Meanwhile, Ed Miliband told the BBC in 2011 that ”

“If you look at actually what happened, we slowed the growth of public spending in about 2005 or 2006 precisely because the tax receipts weren’t coming in sufficiently and we slowed the growth of spending in our economy.

“And, look, all round the world … President Obama is facing a large deficit. He didn’t do that because Gordon Brown was spending too much.”

He added that:

“The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats I think are pedalling a very dangerous myth because they want to tell people that it was somehow all because of a decade of overspending under Labour. It wasn’t. It was because of a financial crash – a financial crash that happened all round the world.”

Both Balls and Miliband have been clear about the fact that they believe Labour’s main mistake regarding the economy was that banks were not regulated enough. At the Labour party’s annual conference last year, the shadow chancellor said:

“While it was the banks which caused the global recession, and it was the global recession which caused deficits to rise here in Britain and around the world, the truth is we should have regulated those banks in a tougher way.”

There seems to be a prevailing impression that Labour are keeping silent on the economy because of a guilty conscience. Perhaps the reality is closer to this: the Tories, and the public, are choosing to repeatedly gloss over Labour’s defence because they provide such an easy target for blame.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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20 Responses to “Labour’s defence of their economic record has gone unheard, not unsaid”

  1. robertcp

    Most people are not qualified to judge the arguments about the cause of the financial crisis. They do, however, remember that Labour was in power and did not see the crash coming (the end of boom and bust etc). Labour could have been out of power for a generation if the coalition had been more intelligent and less right-wing. This is why Labour is very unlikely to get a majority this year but might lead a coalition or minority government.

  2. ForeignRedTory

    ‘the truth is we should have regulated those banks in a tougher way.”’
    And at that time, Labour was actually in power.

    ‘because they provide such an easy target for blame.’
    ’nuff said. Economy remains Labour’s weak spot.
    Labour has issued a partial Mea Culpa – which is hardly the same thing as a defence. Perhaps a defence is not really the thing to look for – if by defence you mean a fairy tale how everything was rosey.

    I think Labour should attack, rather than defend.
    The purpose is to make Milliband the PM, and the purpose is NOT to defend the former policies of Gordon Brown.

  3. Kathryn

    AND AT THAT TIME the Conservatives wanted to RELAX regulation on banks and the city.

    Gosh. Reading comprehension is not your strong point.

  4. madasafish

    Ed Miliband has criticised welfare cuts in Opposition but said he will not reverse them in Government.
    What Oppositions say is irrelevant. Governments make policy…Oppositions oppose.

    Obviously political comprehension is not your strong point 🙂

  5. sarntcrip

    yes dopey labour were in power at the time, when it was too late tory deregulation and cozying up to city
    the tories then promised to impose regulation to seperate invest,ment banking from retail banking THEY STILL HAVEN’T

  6. ForeignRedTory

    You mean in the same way that the British public studiously refuses to take note of the offered explanations? Obviously, getting a story across is not your strong point.
    Campaigning on the record of the previous Labour Administration – a record already rejected by the voters 5 years ago – is a Fool’s Errant.

    Labour’s strong suite must be the manifold errors of the current Tory Administration

  7. Riversideboy

    This is not a Brown versus Blair argument, stop all the warring nonsense you Blairites. Its no good saying we were not responsible just once it needs a full scale war on the lie with every Labour MP repeating the message it was the banks. For those who get comfort in blaming Brown, just grow up and put your petty little arguments away. We have to tell it again and again in the next 99 days-it was not overspending it was the banks.

  8. CGR

    The real problem is that when they mention the financial crisis we all think of Gordon Brown !!!

    Probably best not to mention it at all.

  9. madasafish

    Quoting Ed Balls in support of your case is desperate stuff.
    He has no economic credibility whatsoever.

  10. Guest

    Your personalities all think of Gordon Brown. Right.

  11. Guest

    Your negative, depressing-causing economic credability is great though, of course.

  12. Guest

    No surprise you don’t like a lot of modern democracy.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    The problem, again, is that Labour are austerity-loving Neoliberals who are following basically the same plan as the Tories, today. Wasn’t true last election, but today they simply don’t have a voice different from the government and of course that won’t then be heard!

  14. steroflex

    Mr Blair was elected on a promise to guard the spending of the government. For the first four years he did just that. He kept his word. Remember all the schools’n’ospitals bit? The expenditure then began to rise steadily until the crash of 2008. The gold reserves had been sold off by that time too. So when the crash came – and let us not underestimate it – the government had nothing to fall back on.
    That was when the expenditure got completely out of control and the current government has done absolutely nothing to reverse the trend. Borrowing at the moment costs £84 billion a year – twice the defence budget and getting on towards the education budget.
    President Obama, too, seems to have done exactly the same thing.
    If that is left wing – or right wing – I don’t care. Either way, both sides are as guilty as hell.

  15. Michael Griffin

    Labour were not “in power” as you describe robertcp. They were governing a country called Great Britain.The economic crisis was a global event and as the world does not have an elected government the blame belongs with “capitalism”. That is the “power” we should blame.

  16. robertcp

    I tend to agree but the average voter might not.

  17. TonywilliamI

    The deregulation of the banks allowing them to gamble with our future was the prime cause of the financial crisis, and yes, this did occur whilst labour were in charge. But I do not remember the Tories screaming from the rooftops that we were heading to disaster. No, they were too busy coining in their ill found gains.

  18. laughingravy

    Totally agree & the root cause of the crash started well before Tory Blair came to power & was seduced by the financial gigalos. As a certain german philosopher once said – deregulated & uncontrolled free market capitalism will eventually implode itself, with unlimited competition leading to no competition at all. These same institutions whos criminal greed caused the financial crash are now bankrolling the Tories for the forthcoming election -could not write it could you!!!

  19. Tim

    Her argument is that Ed Ball’s and Ed Milliband did defend labour’s record. How is she going to do that without quoting them?? And why does Ed Balls have no economic credibility? The fact that he was breathing at the time of the global financial crisis?

  20. madasafish

    If you have to ask shy Ed Balls has no economic credibility, you obviously are ignorant of his forecast of a triple dip recession, rising unemployment and failure of the Government’s economic policies.

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