Faced with sustained heckling from the enemy, Ed Balls fluffs lines


Deputy Political Editor

Ed Balls endured a torrid time in the Commons as he accused George Osborne of resorting to “smoke and mirrors” to cover up a record of economic failure.

Amid turbulent scenes in the chamber, the shadow Chancellor – whose flushed appearance saw him dubbed “Red Ed” on social media – struggled to make himself heard in the face of sustained heckling from Conservative MPs.

Following a well-rehearsed argument, he said that working people were worse off after “three damaging years of flat-lining” under the Coalition and contrasted them with millionaires who had benefited from a cut in the top rate of tax.

Mr Balls did not dispute that a recovery was under way, but said it was the slowest for more than a century and was not being felt in Britain’s pockets.

His faltering performance, which concentrated on the Chancellor’s record rather than Labour’s economic plan, could revive accusations that the Opposition lacks a comprehensive and convincing narrative on the economy.

Mr Balls’ showing even failed to make an impression on Labour, with Sky News quoting a party source as saying: “Labour has a very strong argument to make. Unfortunately it was not made well in the chamber today.”

Since the economy started growing earlier this year, Labour has switched its focus from the recession to the cost of living. It argues that wages have lagged behind prices in all but one month since the Coalition came to office. Ed Miliband wants to make living standards the central issue of the next election. It is also focusing on property price inflation, warning houses are rapidly becoming unaffordable for workers on average wages.

Foreshadowing Labour’s line of attack in 2015, Mr Balls lambasted the Chancellor for being in “complete denial” about the squeeze on income. He said Mr Osborne had announced “no real action to tackle the cost of living crisis, no proper plan to earn our way to rising living standards for all”.

“This complacent Chancellor sits there and thinks he deserves a pat on the back,” he continued. “I have to say, with bank bonuses rising again and millionaires enjoying a big tax cut, this is a policy which is working for a few. But as this Autumn Statement shows, with this out-of-touch Chancellor and Prime Minister, hard-working people are worse off under the Tories.”

He said Mr Osborne had been forced to downgrade growth projections, had lost Britain’s triple-AAA credit rating and had broken his promise to balance the nation’s books by 2015. He also charged the Chancellor with borrowing more in the three years he has been at the Treasury than Labour had during its 13 years in office.

In reply, Mr Osborne seized on a recent leaked email from a senior adviser to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, describing Mr Balls as a “nightmare”.

He said: “The Leader of the Opposition and I agree on one thing – that was a complete nightmare. As for denial, the man who said borrowing wouldn’t come down, unemployment wouldn’t come down, growth wouldn’t happen... the man who refuses to apologise for what he did to the British economy? You are the epitome of denial.”

Mr Osborne said it was extraordinary the shadow Chancellor could not bring himself to welcome improved economic forecasts. The Chancellor said Labour’s “silence on the economy goes to the heart of their weakness”, accusing the Opposition of not being able to talk about the deficit, infrastructure, housing or business rates because it does not have policies in those areas.

Later Mr Balls said he was suffering a sore throat, but insisted: “I’m not going to allow 300 Tory MPs to drown me out. If that means I have to shout louder, then I’m going to shout louder.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Amis: Taken to task over rash decisions and ill-judged statements
booksThe Zone of Interest just doesn't work, says James Runcie
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Corporate Tax Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - HIGHEST QUALITY INTERNATIONAL ...

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home