It was good to see that Labour are putting themselves on the front foot with regards to defence. Jim Murphy was right to say that the men and women in our armed forces, on the front lines are OUR people. They come from OUR communities. It was also good to see Corporal Stephen Burke who is the first of many £1 members of the armed forces.
However, the big speech this morning was on the economy. Ed Balls’ speech had been widely trailed in the media overnight, and for many activists it was with a sense of foreboding that we say in awed silence for Ed to take the stage. We were concerned that he had been “got at” by the right. We worried that Ed was changing tack on the economy and the deficit. We needn’t have worried. In reality the change was a small one – one of emphasis rather than policy change.
Ed Balls started by praising Ed Miliband’s leadership of the party, but quickly went on to talk about the things which really matter to millions of ordinary people. Jobs, the rising cost of living and confidence in the future.
He attacked Cameron and Osborne’s inaction on the crisis in Europe, and savaged their cuts programme. “Our economy has flat lined”, he said, “unemployment is rising, and the deficit is set to be £46billion higher this year than they planned. If you choke off the recovery, put tens of thousands of people on the dole not paying taxes and claming benefits, then of course borrowing goes up.”
Common sense stuff from Ed, as he said, Osborne’s plan is hurting, its just not working. He then demolished the “Its all Labour’s fault” argument which is the common theme from both the blue and yellow parts of our Government. He apologised for the mistakes Labour made – which many of the party had said were mistakes at the time – like the 75p pension rise and the abolishion of the 10p tax rate. And of course the mistakes we didnt make – like abolishing the Future Jobs Fund, wasting money on a needless NHS reorganisation, or a £1 billion tax cut for the banks.
He then gave us a 5 point plan to get Britain working again. Taxing Banker’s bonuses, and using the money to build affordable housing and a job guarante for 100,000 young people. Bringing forward investment projects, a cut in VAT, both across the board and down to 5% for home improvements and a NI break for small and medium businesses.
This then is Ed’s plan B. The government can call it plan A+, plan B or plan C.
Britain just needs a plan that works.