While attention is on Ed Balls’ arguing for a 50p tax rate for top earners with the right-wingers fast out of the traps to attack this temporary measure The fact this speech was made at the Fabians conference speaks volumes.
Radical – but not utopian.
Visionary – but evidence-based.
Egalitarian – but honest and realistic.
You could even call it a Fabian approach to managing economic change.
In others words… not that much. Meaningless sound bites. And of course, the Fabians…patronising paternalism and nothing about power to the working class. Many Labour apparatchiks have trod the well worn Fabian path (Including Balls!).
However, before Labour activists start getting weak at the knees about a return to some form of modest social democracy, Balls also told the Fabian conference that Labour supported the benefit cap, the public sector pay freeze, thought public utilities belonged in the open market, and that universal winter fuel payments for pensioners should be means-tested.
We’ve seen the two faces of Ed Balls today in one day. Capitulating to Osborne, the financial markets and the Murdoch media this morning, while throwing a modest redistributive morsel to the left at lunchtime. Bon appetit!
I think the rest of Balls’ speech is worth a peek. Sit back and digest the soundbites and elastic words. The favourite word which kinds springs out is “fairer”…
And cutting the deficit in a fairer way.
By making fairer choices on tax and benefit reform.
We have to ask a bigger question –– how do we create a stronger and fairer economic model for the future where the many benefit from rising prosperity and not just the few?
We are determined to deliver the change we need to make our economy work over the long-term and to build a fairer society that rewards hard work and protects the vulnerable.
But without action to deliver investment-led growth and fairer choices about how to get the national debt down while protecting vital public services, then fiscal discipline cannot be delivered by a Labour government – or, in my view, by any government
It is these three objectives – fiscal discipline, growth and fairness – which will guide our approach.
Third, Labour will combine iron discipline on spending control and action on growth with a fairer approach to deficit reduction.
That means facing up to the tough choices that are necessary if we are to take a fairer approach to deficit reduction.
As I said at this Conference two years ago, fair pay restraint in the public sector in this parliament would have been necessary whoever was in government.
I know some in the business community believe that Labour’s focus on living standards, fairness, transparency and competition is anti-business.
And combine tougher immigration controls and fair labour market rules which can get the benefits of migration while commanding public trust.
When you hear a politician use these vague”armchair words” it should really cause some concern. It’s like when New Labour and the Tories get obsessed with “rights and responsibility”, essentially very few rights but lots of responsibility laid on thick to working class people. What is fairness? It’s an elastic word it could mean anything. I mean, yeah, it’s good to be fair but what is meant by… fairness.
It’s always about the powerless in this society who has to pay but it’s dressed up as fairness. Hey, you public sector worker it’s all about fair pay restraint. Hey, it’s about being nicey-nice to deficit reduction and fair to neo-liberalism.
Where’s the fairness in the benefit cap? There’s isn’t any. If Labour was worth their salt as a real opposition they would scrap this unfair and vicious attack but instead it’s about messing around at the edges. Couple of crumbs here and there thrown to the masses but anything more substantial is missing.