Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ed Balls's incendiary underwear

Ed Balls's incendiary underwear

Interesting.  I thought this post from Fraser Nelson was bang on the money.  I was woken up this morning by the less than dulcet tones of Ed Balls refusing to answer the questions and my first thought was “I bet the Coffee House won’t be impressed by this.”  It was all there, the elisions of different figures, the blatant misrepresentations of Tory policies, the talking over the question, but this time there was a new element.  The lie direct.

“We have acted in the downturn, that will mean that the economy is stronger, we’ll have less unemployment, less debt. Therefore we will be able to spend more on schools and hospitals. The Conservatives have opposed these plans, the national debt will be higher with the Conservatives.”

As we know, from the Government’s own most recent figures, national debt is set to rise in real terms for as long as forecasts run.  So the first sentence is not true.  As we also know, again from the Government’s own figures, departmental spending on health and education is set to fall.  So the second sentence is not true.  The third sentence, being a projection, is less obviously a lie, until you realise that Balls is eliding a hypothetical – what would have happened had the Tories been in power last year – with a prediction – what will happen if they win power next year.  It is, at the very best, highly misleading.  Three out of three sentences, therefore, are untrue.  Balls is a liar.

Well, colour me unsurprised.  This Government have routinely told lies, from little fibs about the Tories planning to abolish the State Pension in 1997, to bigger lies about Bernie Ecclestone, to creative statistics about Iraq ad infinitum.  What’s the difference here?  Well, as Fraser says:

Five years ago, you could lie like this on the radio and get away with it. Space is tight in newspapers, no one would devote hundreds of words and graphs - as we did - to expose a lie for what is. But the world has changed now. Blogging has brought new, hyper scrutiny. Blogs have infinite space, and people with endless energy, to expose political lying - no matter how small. Your claims can be instantly counter-checked, by anyone. If you stretch the truth, you can be exposed - by anyone. And if you plan to base a whole election campaign on a lie, as you apparently intend to do, then you're in for a rude awakening.

And it’s fair to say that Balls doesn’t like having this pointed out to him.

Ed Balls has just called me up about my post from this morning , hopping mad. He instructed me to "take that post down now". I thought he was joking: has there been some change to the constitution where ministers now have power over the media? But he was deadly serious. "You should not call me a liar," said Balls. I told him that if he doesn't want to be called a liar, “he shouldn't tell lies”.

I think that sounds like excellent advice.

Incidentally, and on the same point, Danny Finkelstein comments on the real significance of Brown’s failure to remove Darling and impose Balls on the Treasury:

As Chancellor Balls would have acted entirely politically. He would have done anything to provide the figures that could sustain the campaign. His only financial objective would have been to put pressure on the Tories. He would have used his authority and Treasury support to make cuts v investment seem real.

Danny, incidentally, is far more charitable than Fraser.  He merely describes Balls’s interview as shameless a piece of political nonsense as I have ever sat through.  That’s practically a rave review for Labour these days.

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