Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was in Birmingham as he prepared for next week’s Budget showdown with George Osborne. He spoke to Neil Elkes after seeing first hand what Midland businesses want.
Ed Balls is the Labour man the Tories love to hate. He is also a divisive figure within the Labour Party where he has gained a reputation for plotting and mixing it up.
But as he prepares for his second budget as Shadow Chancellor he is warming to a new theme, claiming that the time for Labour hand-wringing over the economy and its relaxed attitude to bank regulation is over.
Instead he is on the attack and voters can expect to see him bating his opposite number next week.
“Some people say George Osborne is the phantom chancellor. On the Two Ronnies they had the phantom raspberry blower who used to pop out from behind buildings then disappear. We see our Chancellor just as much.
“He’s hardly ever on the television, he does few interviews,” he explains.
It is thought that Osborne avoids the limelight because he does not appeal to voters, but Balls has another theory.
“The problem is he doesn’t know what the answers to the questions are. He said the economy would grow, it’s flat lined. He said he’d get unemployment down, there’s been a 100 per cent rise in long term unemployment among young people in 12 months.
“This region lived through high long term youth unemployment in the 1980s and still bears the scars of that.
“We’ve got a problem getting the deficit down because if you’ve got fewer people in work you end up borrowing more and that’s part of George Osborne’s problem, and what’s his answer?”