The five candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party have completed the latest in a series of public debates that began back in June with the New Statesman hustings in Westminster. Sky News hosted a debate this morning in Norwich. You can read Ruth Barnett’s live blog of proceedings here.
Frankly, very little was said that we haven’t heard before, though there was some confusion about the date of St George’s Day — with only David Miliband and Ed Balls giving the correct answer of 23 April (something that seems to have particularly exercised Jonathan Isaby of ConservativeHome). There was an interesting moment, however, when Balls aimed an implicit rebuke at the rhetoric of both Miliband brothers. He said that talk of “values” and “change” is all well and good, but “policies” matter, too. Spoken like a true Treasury technocrat.
Balls has certainly impressed this summer as he has taken the macroeconomic fight over cuts and deficit reduction to the government. But one of the things that the general election campaign surely showed is that technical arguments aren’t enough.
As Ed Miliband put it in his June speech on the future of social democracy, and as his brother argued in his Keir Hardie Lecture the following month, some fundamental questions of political economy remain to be answered, and they are as much about an overarching vision and, yes, “values” as they are about detailed policy.