Breaking News
Monday, 1 October 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012
** Labour Conference Edition ** Sell And Spend, Not Borrow And Spend ** ...But We're Not Deficit Deniers Either! ** Vaz Under Fire ** We Love Them, We Love Them Not ** "Good Old Labour Stitch-Up" ** Naughty Boy ** Not Dead Yet **


Trust the canny Ed Balls to get round one of the biggest conundrums of them all: how do you do what's right, in economic terms, i.e. spending/stimulus, without doing what's wrong in political terms. i.e. borrowing/debt? How do you (not)borrow-yet-spend?

In his conference speech today, the shadow chancellor will call on the Treasury to use the expected £3bn windfall from the sale of next-generation 4G mobile phone to "kick-start the economy" by building 100,000 affordable homes and giving a tax break for first-time buyers

The shadow chancellor will be pleased with the Guardian's splash headline: "'It's time to actually do something' - Balls pledges extra £3bn for housing"

He might not be so pleased with the Mail headline: "Balls: Let's spend, spend, spend"

According to the Guardian: "Balls is estimating that the sale will raise £3bn and proposes to spend £2.5bn to build 100,000 affordable homes, allocating the remaining £500m for a two-year stamp duty holiday for first-time buyers on properties worth up to £250,000."

I suspect some Tories, however, might want to remind Balls that, in 2003, he and Gordon "prudence" Brown used the proceeds from the sale of 3G licences to pay down the national debt. Then again, we weren't in a cuts-inspired double-dip recession back then. And, as Ed Balls tells me in an interview for the HuffPost UK: "[W]e were not a balanced budget party, we were a borrow-to-invest-and balance-the-current budget party."


Balls continues to walk his tightrope: he wants more stimulus, but he isn't a - gasp! - deficit denier. God forbid!

In his conference speech at noon, he will warn that "hard times will last longer than all of us hoped" and will pledge that a Labour Government would hold a "zero-based spending review" to look at "every pound spent".

He's even managed to pull his deputy leader into line: Harriet Harman told the BBC's Sunday Politics yesterday that she'd been mistaken last week, in an interview with the Spectator, when she said that Labour would not match Tory spending plans at the next election.


24 hours, as a former Labour leader almost said, is a long time in politics. Yesterday afternoon, Yvette Cooper began her equalities speech by asking Ed MIliband to pay tribute to the first ethnic minority MPs on the 25 anniversary of their election to parliament, including Keith Vaz, the former Labour minister and influential chair of the home affairs select committee.

But this morning, the Telegraph splashes on: "Secret police probe into Labour MP's £500,000". The paper claims a Scotland Yard investigation "found that over a six-year period, almost £500,000 was apparently deposited in [Keith Vaz's] accounts — in addition to his salary between 1997 and 2001. The source of the funds has not been declared publicly and the evidence gathered by police may contradict assurances given by Mr Vaz during an investigation into his finances between 2000 and 2001 carried out by parliament."

Vaz denies all wrongdoing. Lest we forget, however, as home affairs select committee chair, he's charged with holding the police to account. Gulp.


That's the headline the Sun this morning, referring to Ed Miliband's admission on the Marr programme yesterday that he was proud of his image as a "pointy headed" policy "wonk".

Meanwhile, as the Telegraph reports:

"Ed Miliband has begun a campaign to rebrand himself and play up to his "geeky" image, after Harriet Harman yesterday conceded that many voters did not know who he was.

The Labour leader stars in a party broadcast to be screened nationally on Wednesday, which features interviews with his former classmates and teachers at the "tough" state comprehensive he attended in north London."

That's Haverstock, in case you're wondering. Not, er, Eton. You get the point.

(If not, the Guardian's Michael White sums it up: "Ed is not posh and helped other kids with their homework. All together now: ahhh.")


New Tory Party chair Grant Shapps tries to defend his use of the 'Michael Green' alter ego. "Tries" being the operative word. Check out the Mitterand (!) reference.


Watch this video of 24's Jack Bauer making cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes.


From the Independent's Andy Grice:

"Divisions have opened up inside Labour over how to handle the sensitive issue of the party's relationship with the Liberal Democrats and whether there could be a Lib-Lab coalition after the next election."

Grice notes how Ed Miliband reiterated Harman's description of the Lib Dems as "accomplices" of the Conservatives in his Marr appearance yesterday yet "last night John Denham, Mr Miliband's parliamentary private secretary, shared a platform with Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader, at a Fabian Society meeting at the Labour conference. Mr Denham is launching a new group, Labour4Democracy, to promote pluralism in the Labour movement."

Meanwhile, in an interview with me for the Huffington Post UK, Ed Balls calls on Vince Cable "to show some leadership" and stage a Lib Dem walk-out from the coalition, adding: "[T]he idea that you would sort of turn away for sectional reasons from doing the right thing in a hung parliament would be absurd."


The FT"s Matthew Engel is worth a read today. He draws attention to the "thin attendance" in the conference hall yesterday, as well as "a good old Labour stitch-up":

"The conference having begun at 2pm, the first vote was at 2.26, on some characteristically obscure attempt to send back the conference arrangements report to the relevant committee for reconsideration.

'All those in favour of the report,' said the chairman, Michael Cashman. A few hands went up. 'Against?' Rather more hands, I reckoned. 'Clearly carried,' he said."


Sticking with the Engel column, there's another good bit where, after noting the one-hour ethics lecture from Harvard academic Michael Sandel ("Some of my press colleagues thought this exercise bizarre"), Matthew writes:

"[T]here was also a tieless man at the back who was slouching, appeared to be chewing gum, talked quite loudly to his neighbour and generally acted like the naughtiest boy in the class. Then he left before the end. This was David Miliband, the man who isn't leader. On stage his brother Ed, who is, and clearly had dreamt up the Sandel stunt, was staring rapt at the guru."

(David, of course, was quoted in yesterday's Mail on Sunday saying baby brother Ed "will crash and burn" - which is a quote from the new, updated, paperback edition of the Ed Miliband biography that James Macintyre and I first published last year. Shameless plug alert: it's out on sale today!)


The Progress/Blairite fightback against the unions begins (via PoliticsHome):

"Speaking at the Progress rally at the Labour conference, former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw warned union bosses: "We don't need to silence anybody."

Mr Bradshaw was cheered on by Progress supporters as he responded to Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey, who told the Sunday Times Ed Miliband needed to "kick the New Labour cuckoos out of our nest" and stop listening to the "Blairite dead".

...Caroline Flint also picked up on the theme. The shadow energy secretary told the rally: "Apparently I'm a cuckoo so I'm going to start by talking about the dodos tonight. The Liberal Democrats - who did you think I was talking about?"


From Michael White's Guardian diary:

Good day: Ed Balls. In the annual MPs vs Hacks football match, played at Salford FC's ground, he took a dive to win a penalty and scored two (Andy Burnham slotted home the third) in the MPs' 3-0 win.

Bad day: Harriet Harman. On Sky TV she twice referred to David Cameron as David Miliband. A Freudian slip?


"There's a limit to even my generosity." Ed Balls' response, when asked by me whether he'd be willing to give up the shadow chancellorship to David Miliband.


From YouGov's Anthony Wells:

"...while there is widespread support for more tax on the rich, this doesn't necessarily translate into support for wealth taxes on the rich, as opposed to income taxes on the rich. When YouGov asked whether people thought it was fairer to tax wealth or income, 69% said income to only 22% who thought it fairer to tax wealth."


"Fewer than one in five Brits thinks Labour chief Ed Miliband is a PM in waiting, an exclusive YouGov poll for The Sun reveals.

An overwhelming 66 per cent say he does not look ready for power — and that includes 40 per cent of Labour voters."



@Dorianlynskey Ed Balls always sounds ready for a ruck. "Deficit? I'll give your face a deficit mate. I'll put your bloody life into recession" #bbcr4today

@nicholaswatt: Is @edballsmp talking to @EvanHD in the third person? #lab2012

‏@GPW_Portland FT's @GeorgeWParker robbed by @edballsmp dive in penalty box of lobby match, TV pix reveal.


Jackie Ashley, writing in the Guardian, says: "Ed Miliband's biggest task will be to... convince the disillusioned that Britain can develop a less short-term, less unequal economy, in which companies can again be admired."

David Blunkett, writing in the Daily Mail, says: "British politicians have rarely been so ridiculed and despised, and that should worry us all".

Paul Goodman, writing in the FT, says: "Mr Miliband's biggest problem, like that of the Tories, is less one of policy than of people. Or rather of one person. Himself."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (, Chris Wimpress ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @chriswimpress, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol
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