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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