LABOUR is winning the economic argument, Ed Balls claimed yesterday, amid criticism of his Commons performance in the wake of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.
The shadow chancellor told Sky’s Dermot Murnaghan he “couldn’t give a toss” about speculation in newspapers and by bookmakers about his chances of staying in the job, insisting he had “never been less bothered” about “gossip and tittle tattle” in his 20-year political career.
Mr Balls said Labour had answers for real people, not just those in the Westminster bubble. He said: “[We have] a really strong economic argument and that’s why 300 Tory MPs were going to shout really loudly from the very beginning.
“I decided I was going to take the argument back to them and say no, there is not a recovery for most working people, living standards are falling. What happened the next day? The Institute of Fiscal Studies effectively confirmed the Chancellor is out of touch saying living standards are going up, because for most people, they are going down – I think we are winning the argument.”
Mr Balls questioned why David Cameron and Mr Osborne were laughing on the front bench as he made his case on Thursday, and added: “I have had people coming to me and saying, keep up the fight, because we need a Labour government because we’re getting worse off.”
Challenged on people making judgments on his performance and questioning his future, he added: “I’m not complaining at all – what I want to talk about is what is happening in our country.
“The Daily Mail would love me and Ed Miliband out because they want to keep in an out-of-touch Tory government which is cutting tax at the top.
“That’s the nature of politics … they’re betting on David Cameron and George Osborne and Ed Miliband. It’s just the way it is … frankly, I couldn’t give a toss.”
Mr Balls said he was not in denial about the role his party played in the 2008 financial crisis, arguing that he had taken account of mistakes made – and insisting there was cross-party support for the big economic arguments in 2006.
He said: “Every government gets some things right but doesn’t do everything right. We were completely right, in my view, to make the Bank independent, have a national minimum wage, not to join the single currency, to get our national debt down, to invest in the National Health Service.”
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: “Ed Balls remains in deep denial, unable to accept the severity of the economic mess Labour left behind.”
Shadow chief Treasury secretary Chris Leslie confirmed yesterday that Labour planned to include the basic state pensions in future caps on welfare spending. Mr Osborne has excluded the retirement payments from a new annual limit on spending which he confirmed would be brought in from 2015.
Mr Leslie told BBC1’s Sunday Politics while Labour backed the exclusion of pensions in the short term, it would be “irresponsible” not to consider their affordability longer term.