Round one to Ed Balls

Balls’s calm and assured response was exactly what Labour needed.

Ed Balls wisely resisted the temptation to boast that he had been vindicated by today's terrible growth figures. Instead, in an appearance on The World At One, he calmly offered himself as the voice of experience to an economic novice.

"I worked at the Treasury for ten years. My advice to George Osborne is: don't think up excuses about the weather, don't dig yourself into a hole," he said. Quoting Keynes, he added: "If the facts change, I change my mind. George Osborne should do that."

The shadow chancellor sensibly pointed to the fact that the deficit for 2009-2010 came in at £156.3bn (£21.7bn lower than the original Treasury forecast) as evidence that Labour's policy of "going for growth" was beginning to fill the hole in the public finances. Osborne's insistence that Labour doesn't have a "credible deficit reduction plan" ignores that, without growth, neither does he.

Elsewhere, as the Spectator's Peter Hoskin has noted, Balls refused to predict a double-dip recession. Asked if he thought one was likely, he replied: "I really hope not. I think the most likely outcome is months of stagnant growth, unless George Osborne digs himself out of this hole." The risk of a double dip is real, as the NS economics editor David Blanchflower argued this morning, but this was an act of necessary caution from Balls.

Osborne's decision to put so much emphasis on the weather in his response to the figures has already been widely ridiculed and was a clear misjudgement. As the Office for National Statistics pointed out in its briefing, if you strip out the effects of the snow, growth is still flat at 0 per cent. The Chancellor could only reply that "estimates are highly uncertain at the moment".

When asked for a "plan B", Osborne responded that he can hardly "cancel" the cuts, a caricature of his opponents' position. But he could have easily cancelled the VAT rise, which, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, will reduce GDP by 0.3 per cent alone. History may record that as his biggest misjudgement.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Appreciate the full horror of Nigel Farage's pro-Trump speech

The former Ukip leader has appeared at a Donald Trump rally. It went exactly as you would expect.

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Nigel Farage is at it again.

The on-again, off-again Ukip leader and current Member of the European Parliament has appeared at a Donald Trump rally to lend his support to the presidential candidate.

It was, predictably, distressing.

Farage started by telling his American audience why they, like he, should be positive.

"I come to you from the United Kingdom"

Okay, good start. Undeniably true.

"– with a message of hope –

Again, probably quite true.

Image: Clearly hopeful (Wikipedia Screenshot)

– and optimism.”

Ah.

Image: Nigel Farage in front of a poster showing immigrants who are definitely not European (Getty)

He continues: “If the little people, if the real people–”

Wait, what?

Why is Trump nodding sagely at this?

The little people?

Image: It's a plane with the name Trump on it (Wikimedia Commons)

THE LITTLE PEOPLE?

Image: It's the word Trump on the side of a skyscraper I can't cope with this (Pixel)

THE ONLY LITTLE PERSON CLOSE TO TRUMP IS RIDING A MASSIVE STUFFED LION

Image: I don't even know what to tell you. It's Trump and his wife and a child riding a stuffed lion. 

IN A PENTHOUSE

A PENTHOUSE WHICH LOOKS LIKE LIBERACE WAS LET LOOSE WITH THE GILT ON DAY FIVE OF A PARTICULARLY BAD BENDER

Image: So much gold. Just gold, everywhere.

HIS WIFE HAS SO MANY BAGS SHE HAS TO EMPLOY A BAG MAN TO CARRY THEM

Image: I did not even know there were so many styles of Louis Vuitton, and my dentists has a lot of old copies of Vogue.

Anyway. Back to Farage, who is telling the little people that they can win "against the forces of global corporatism".

 

Image: Aaaaarggghhhh (Wikipedia Screenshot)

Ugh. Okay. What next? Oh god, he's telling them they can have a Brexit moment.

“... you can beat Washington...”

“... if enough decent people...”

“...are prepared to stand up against the establishment”

Image: A screenshot from Donald Trump's Wikipedia page.

I think I need a lie down.

Watch the full clip here:

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland