Balls on Newsnight.

So tonight’s interview was far better. My only concern is that by treating us like adults, Balls does risk confusing voters. He avoids jargon, but he does have a tendency to talk in counterfactual terms which to many may appear evasive. They’re wrong, of course. It’s important that when economic conditions develop so rapidly and could easily get far worse by the time election day arrives, the opposition party doesn’t lock itself into any policy proposals which may need revising. As such, all they can do is offer a running commentary about what they would do now if they had power, whilst stressing how things would be different if their past policies had been followed all along. They can demonstrate credibility this way by allowing us to check the accuracy of their narrative. And this is the reason Balls can’t give a meaningless numerical figure now, pinpointing how much more he would borrow. Gavin Esler seems to stupidly take this as his criterion for political sincerity and depth. But the truth is that without such figures, Balls still managed to talk to us in a more respectful and truthful manner than almost all British politicians, who prefer misleading but catchy sound-bites. Esler asked Balls bluntly if borrowing would go up under Labour’s proposals. He replied decisively: ‘Yes, of course, and it’s right that it should’. He even openly used the word ‘stimulus’, which seems to have been erased from Osborne’s dictionary and desperately needs reclaiming as a sound and positive rather than reckless economic term. Balls has been in the anti-austerity camp all along. He may have been soft on the rhetoric at first, and that allowed the debate to be framed in the coalition’s favour for far too long. But he always knew bleeding an ill patient would be futile. Now he’s starting to proudly shout about it. And there are signs that the Tories know he is one of Labour’s greatest assets.

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