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Balls has a far worse problem than his stammer

By Paul Goodman
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The lower growth is, the lower tax revenues will be.

The lower tax revenues are, the less money there is for public services.

And the less money there is for public services, the more pressure the Shadow Chancellor will come under, as the next election approaches, to promise to tax and borrow more.

So while slow or no growth is a problem for George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, it's an opportunity for George Osborne, Conservative political strategist.

For his opposite number will either have to accept the Government's spending plans, in which case he will blow up his own attack on them, demoralise Labour's base and risk its unity.

Or he will reject them, in which case he will set up Messrs Cameron and Osborne to re-run the "Labour's double-whammy" 1992 election campaign.

I'm not convinced this would work as effectively for them as it did for John Major, given the way the electoral system works - and the lack of a Tory Commons majority from which to start.

Mr Balls is blaming his Parliamentary blunder yesterday on his stammer.  This is spin.  He slipped up, not mis-spoke: he was caught out by the OBR reporting that the deficit has fallen, not risen.

But in any event, he has a far worse problem than difficulty with the way he speaks, or his relationship with colleagues.  (Ed Miliband was eyeing him unhappily yesterday.)

For Conservatives in opposition, the voters' most probing election question is always the same: what will you cut?  For Labour it is: how much will you tax - and what about our mortgage?

The Shadow Chancellor's instinct will be to close the question down, as he did with Gordon Brown in 1997.  But the longer it takes for growth to return, the harder it will be for him to do so.