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  1. Politics
26 September 2011

Ed Balls’s Labour conference speech – live blog

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

By George Eaton

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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.

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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.

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