Ed Balls on why he's committed to "responsible capitalism"

The shadow chancellor rejects claims that he lacks enthusiasm for Miliband's agenda and declares his support for "a different kind of economy".

One of the criticisms made by some in Labour of Ed Balls is that he is not committed enough to Ed Miliband's "responsible capitalism" agenda. The shadow chancellor is often viewed as less concerned with rebalancing the economy away from finance and with introducing a tougher system of bank regulation. One Blue Labour figure recently described him to me as "a conventional Brownite politician", suggesting that his philosophy was little changed from the days when the party advocated a "light touch" approach to the City. 

But when I put this charge to Balls during my interview with him for this week's NS, he responded with one of the best summaries yet of how his views have evolved and why he is as committed as Miliband to a reshaped capitalism. Here's the full quote, which I didn't have room to include in the piece.

The last Labour government didn’t build enough homes, and we’ve got to have a big drive on housing. The last Labour government didn’t do enough to regulate banking and we need to have a different approach to competition and to the regulation of banks. The last Labour government tried to persuade business to invest in skills for the adult workforce, and I don’t think it worked very well. The last Labour government went softly, softly on the agency workers directive and that was a mistake. The last Labour government talked about finding ways to have more long-term incentives and rules of the game for takeovers and capital markets, but we didn’t act.

In every one of those areas, the next Labour government has said that it’s going to act. The last Labour government tried to find ways to encourage, to fill that market gap for small business lending, but the next Labour government will have a British Investment Bank as an institution to drive small business support across the country.

On every one of those areas, Ed and I are working closely together on the policy agenda to deliver a different kind of economy. It’s a different Labour leadership, it’s a different kind of Labour Party, it’s a different political challenge, it’s a different policy agenda and it’s suited to different times and we’re working on it closely together. I’m not sure where the difference is, or where the lack of enthusiasm comes from, because it doesn’t come from me.

Ed Balls speaks at the CBI conference in London, on November 4, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.