Ed Balls's Labour conference speech - live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the shadow chancellor's speech to the Labour conference.

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12:39 In contrast to Vince Cable, who spoke of "grey skies" in his conference speech, Balls ends on an optimistic note. Labour must show that there is "reason to hope" and a "better way", he concludes.

12:38 Britain might be a "safe haven" for Cameron, Osborne, Boris Johnson and their friends, says Balls. But Tory Britain is not a "safe haven" for the 16,000 companies that have gone bust in the last year.

12:36 He promises to examine proposals for a National Investment Bank for small businesses.

12:34 He adds that Labour will commit to use any windfall from the sale of the state-owned bank shares for deficit reduction, not tax cuts. Balls promises"fiscal responsibility in the national interest".

12:33 Here's the much-previewed passage on Balls's new "fiscal rules".

Before the election he promises that he will spell out "tough fiscal rules" that a future Labour government would have to follow. They would be independently monitored by the OBR.

12:29 Balls is announcing his five-point plan for growth:

1. Repeat the bank bonus tax and use the money to build 20,000 affordable homes.

2. Bring forward long-term investment in schools, transport, and roads.

3. An immediate one year reduction in VAT on home improvements to 5 per cent.

4. Reverse January's VAT rise for a temporary period to stimulate growth.

5. A one-year National Insurance holiday for every small firm that takes on extra workers.

"Call it Plan A, call it Plan B, call it Plan C, I don't care what they call it. Britain needs a plan that works," he cries.

12:25 But he refuses to accept that Labour was "profligate" during its time in office. We went into the crisis with a lower debt-to-GDP ratio than in 1997, he reminds the hall.

12:24 Sounding a note of contrition, Balls admits that Labour made "mistakes", namely the 75p pension rise, the abolition of the 10p tax rate, loose controls on eastern european migration, and light regulation of the banks.

12:23 Balls cites the IMF's warning that Osborne may need to slow the pace of his cuts if growth continues to disappoint. He repeats one of Labour's favourite attack lines: "Osborne's plan is hurting but it's not working".

12:21 He attacks Osborne's deficit reduction programme as self-defeating "if you choke off the recovery then borrowing doesn't go down, it goes up," he warns. The government cannot afford to tolerate rising unemployment.

12:19 Balls attacks Osborne and Cameron for praising austerity across the world and "urging even deeper cuts". They are ignoring the lessons of history, he says. It is not just a failure of leadership but an "abdication of responsibility too", he warns.

12:17 This is not a "crisis of public debt" but a "global growth crisis", argues Balls. We must learn the lesson of the 1930s, he says. Piling austerity on austerity does not work.

12:16 These are "the darkest, most dangerous" economic times in my lifetime, says Balls. Britain is facing the threat of something most of us have only read about in the history books: a decade of stagnation.

12:14 He pays tribute to "our leader and my friend, Ed Miliband", praising Miliband's response to the phone hacking scandal and his calm, resolute leadership.

12:13 Balls takes to the stage. He begins by saying how pleased he is to deliver his first conference speech as shadow chancellor.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.