Steve Richards in converstaion with Ed Balls - Live coverage - The Independent

Steve Richards in converstaion with Ed Balls

Blogging live from the Labour Party conference fringe

  • 5.45 pm
    9/23/2013 4:48:05 PM
  • Ed Balls delivered his big conference speech just over five hours ago. Now he is here to answer a few questions from The Independent's political columnist, Steve Richards
    9/23/2013 4:49:42 PM
  • Ed Balls says he feels like David Beckham at his wedding. Heaven knows what he meant by that!
    9/23/2013 4:53:59 PM
  • Can't hear! they shout at the back. So they turn up the mikes. Too loud! someone at the front shouts
    9/23/2013 4:54:43 PM
  • First question is about the legality of getting the Office of Budget Responsibility to audit the opposition's spending commitments. No one knows because the OBR didn't exist before the last election. Ed Balls says the OBR's work is now supported by a 'cross-party consensus' and no one wants to draw it into political debate. But the OBR scrutinises every tax and spending commitment by government. He wants them to do exactly the same for all tax and spend plans in the Labour election manifesto.
    9/23/2013 4:57:47 PM
  • Balls adds that this would involve a change in the OBR charter, which would require a vote in Parliament, which Balls wants. There is argument about whether it would require a change in the law.
    9/23/2013 4:58:50 PM
  • He says he is surprised that George Osborne is opposed to the OBR checking the Labour manifesto, that Labour is prepared to push it to a vote in the Commons. He thinks that such a vote would make Osborne look as if he is behaving in a "nakedly partisan" way
    9/23/2013 5:00:24 PM
  • An OBR check would stop the government making up false claims about the cost of the opposition's programme. Maybe George Osborne is playing such a political game that he wants the freedom to smear Labour's plans, while his have the authoritative stamp of the OBR, he suggests.
    9/23/2013 5:03:04 PM
  • Steve Richards says: "In 2010 you said your Keynesian instincts told you that the economy needed a rocket boost" while in his speech today he warned that they have to tackle the deficit. What changed?
    9/23/2013 5:05:22 PM
  • Balls: I said in the middle of 2011 the growth will return,: the danger is that we go into a period where there is recovery which for working people isn't recovery at all.
    9/23/2013 5:06:46 PM
  • Asked by SR whether he overdid the Keynesian message about upping government spending in recession, Balls replied: "In 2010, I thought if you don't make what you think is the right argument you are letting people down."
    9/23/2013 5:09:06 PM
  • Balls's argument is that it consistent for him to call for an increase in government spending during a recession, and to say that you have to avoid having government debt go out of control once the economy starts to grow, a nd that both arguments are consistent with Keynes.
    9/23/2013 5:10:54 PM
  • Now on to HS2. Balls says Labour supported HS2 but over time the costs have gone up and up and questions are being asked. Two choices: We need to up our PR game, or you need to reassure the public that money is being properly spent. He accuses the government of choosing PR, whereas Labour would ensure that it really is value for money. He added: "I'm not saying that HS2 is off the table."
    9/23/2013 5:13:04 PM
  • Balls: "The Olympics was a massive project, but it was fiscally a small project compared with this." Every billion we spend on HS2 is a billion we won't spend on other projects: so is it the best project on which to spend £50 billion?
    9/23/2013 5:14:55 PM
  • Balls: "I'm not meaning to sound unkeen (on HS2) ....I think it's about time we injected a bit of hard thinking into this debate."
    9/23/2013 5:15:59 PM
  • "At no point have we had any discussions internally about abolishing the (HS2) scheme."
    9/23/2013 5:16:51 PM
  • "I don't think the Chancellor should be the cheerleader for a project on this scale wihtout being hard headed....I don't George Osborne is doing his job properly." He accused Osborne of being a political strategist rather than a full time Chancellor
    9/23/2013 5:18:48 PM
  • SR asks whether the recent past - McBride, G Brown et al - is "so toxic that you feel you just can't go there." Balls's reply notably doesn't mention McBride or even Brown in his reply. He claims that the public are interested in the future, not the recent past. If he started every interview with a description of what he did in the past he would be "the pub bore".
    9/23/2013 5:21:12 PM
  • There is a lot of track record and experience in the shadow cabinet, says Balls, drawing a comparison with the Labour Cabinet of 1964
    9/23/2013 5:21:56 PM
  • SR asks "When these things happen" - ie the McBride memoir - "what have you reflected?"
    9/23/2013 5:23:03 PM
  • Ed Balls has not uttered the name of Damian McBride, to say he was 'shocked' by revelations. "It really feels like quite a long time ago."
    9/23/2013 5:23:46 PM
  • Ed Balls says that on the Sunday night of the 1996 Labour Party conference, Blair and Brown finally got around to comparing their speeches. They both had the same ending: "Labour's coming home." Blair said it would have to come out of Brown's speech, Brown said it would have to come out of Blair's. Eventually Brown gave way. But how could they leave it so late to compare speeches?
    9/23/2013 5:26:54 PM
  • By comparison, Ed Miliband showed Balls his conference speech two weeks ago, making Balls feel guilty because he hadn't started writing his. "What a massive change we have made from then to now!"
    9/23/2013 5:27:52 PM
  • Balls describes himself and others in 1997 as "a bit arrogant, a bit macho" - his excuse being that he was only in the 1920s.
    9/23/2013 5:29:13 PM
  • Balls says: "It feels like In the Psychiatrist's Chair here."
    9/23/2013 5:29:35 PM
  • First question: Why don't you want to reduce the price of homes by two thirds, stop churning of second homes, and to tax land values. Balls replies: "It is not without complications" and "In the end it is poor about the supply of homes than the price of land."
    9/23/2013 5:31:19 PM
  • Balls now describing the arguments they had in 1997 over whether to have an energy tax. What is remarkable, he says, is that the government has managed to unite the CBI and Greenpeace against them.
    9/23/2013 5:33:56 PM
  • On the Help to Buy scheme, which underwrites mortgages, he says the idea of helping young people get on the housing ladder is the right idea, but £600,000 is too high a figure: also if you only stimulate demand without increasing supply you only add to the problem of rising house prices.
    9/23/2013 5:35:45 PM
  • Balls has just accused Osborne of making "bad chancelorial decisions". Is there such a word?
    9/23/2013 5:36:31 PM
  • Ed Balls: "I have never done or sanctioned any briefing against a shadow cabinet or cabinet colleague."
    9/23/2013 5:37:14 PM
  • Asked whether he would ring fence NHS spending, Balls almost said yes, subject to discussions with shadow cabinet colleagues.
    9/23/2013 5:38:48 PM
  • We will have a clear usable on the doorstep summary of our policies by Saturday, Balls promises
    9/23/2013 5:41:01 PM
  • Ed Balls says that John Prescott was "incredible". He would sit at the back of a campaign bus and cold call voters to say 'I'm John Prescott: are you going to vote Labour.' "He once asked Gordon to join in."
    9/23/2013 5:42:17 PM
  • If I stood up and said here is my policy of free school meals and didn't say how I was going to pay for it, I would be mocked. Nick Clegg got away with it.
    9/23/2013 5:43:34 PM
  • Balls: It is quite frustrating being at meetings where people say I don't care about what you're doing in three years, what are you going to do now: I can't do anything unless we win the general election.
    9/23/2013 5:45:43 PM
  • A questioner says she has logged two policies: extending child care and scrapping the 'bedroom tax' and asks if there are any more. Ed Balls replies that he could repeat his whole speech, all 4.982 words, form memory. His only concern was whether the 'towel' joke would work. As he finished, Harriet Harman said 'Great joke: I wish I'd thought of it.' So it passed the Harriet test. Then he reels off a list of policies. He also promises that there will be two more hard commitments tomorrow, he adds: almost giving away what is going to be in Ed Miliband's speech
    9/23/2013 5:50:37 PM
  • Ed Balls is talking about the joy of learning the piano: "You have to use two hands! It's the only thing I've ever found that takes absolute mental concentration."
    9/23/2013 5:55:33 PM
  • Ed Balls has been on the go since 5.30 am and has more to do, so that's it for this session. Thanks to our sponsors, RSA insurance, and goodnight
    9/23/2013 5:56:49 PM
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