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When will BBC journalists start asking Labour the tough economic questions?

Tim Montgomerie

In an article for The Guardian George Osborne attacks "The Labour reality deficit". He argues that Labour's two Eds are in denial on three fronts:

  • OGIn denial about Labour's pre-recession over-borrowing: Labour like to blame the world recession for Britain's huge deficit but we had a structural deficit before the recession struck. The structural deficit is the borrowing that persists even when the economy is at full health. It is the best measure of a nation living beyond its means. Osborne notes that Britain went from the second best structural position among the G7 in 2000 to the worst, by 2007, before the world's economic crisis. Britain, in other words, went into the storm unprepared for rainy days. Labour politicians are telling porky pies when they blame the world recession, America or whatever for the underlying deficit.
  • In denial about the need for spending cuts: Labour had planned to cut spending by £14 billion this year (the Coalition is cutting £16 billion). I pose two rhetorical questions flowing from this...
    • Has Ed Balls acted in the national interest and helped build national support for the austerity programme or has he sought short-term partisan advantage? 
    • Have BBC interviewers relentlessly asked Ed Balls what he would cut or have they asked him once before meekly moving on?
  • In denial about the global consensus: Ed Balls accuses the Coalition of cutting for ideological reasons. The Chancellor hits back at this in his article: "The pace of the government's plan is backed by, among others, the G20, OECD, IMF and European commission – and at home, the CBI, IFS and two of the three main political parties. That doesn't look like an ideological line-up to me. Quite the reverse: it is close to a domestic and international consensus."

Osborne's article is a welcome intervention. As I blogged yesterday, it's vital that politics becomes a choice again - rather than a referendum on the Coalition: A choice between the Coalition taking tough decisions and an opposition that hasn't apologised, hasn't learnt the lessons of its defeat* and would leave Britain with impossible levels of debt.

Craig Oliver, the new Head of Communications at Downing Street, started yesterday. [See photo of him arriving with an array of trendy gear]. He must press his former colleagues at the BBC to ask the tough questions of the Labour leadership. They are currently getting away with economic murder.

A battle is now on with each parties racing to define each other. In an important post, James Forsyth blogged that Labour wants to paint us as incompetent and nasty. George Osborne has fired the starting gun today in the battle to define Labour as the party of economic irresponsibility.


* Peter Watt, former General Secretary of the Labour Party, understands this: "We [Labour] are still opposing every cut, every library closure, every reduction in police numbers and every job loss. It might make us feel better and win some short term popularity. But it isn’t an answer to the charge that we had become economically illiterate and had allowed massive overspending."


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