Simon Carr: An Ed-to-Ed meeting to make you long for a pint of paint-stripper

Sketch: The Eds' plan is to put an extra 0.3 per cent of public spending into the construction industry. A plan for 0.3 per cent of anything is no plan.

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They went Ed to Ed with us and what a gruelling encounter it was. Ed Miliband and Ed Balls held a joint press conference. The winner would be the one who stopped the other talking more. Thus, as we longed to move on to another question – "If I could just pick up on a point Ed made," they both kept saying.*

The right-wing press has been boosting Balls recently – to make mischief – but that'll be harder now than it was. They sounded like two burnt-out comedians-with-opinions in a Radio Four game show called And Another Thing.

Balls warned that we hadn't understood "the scale of George Osborne's mistake". It was £40bn big, he said. That sounds like quite a mistake. But then, the £40bn is over five years. And then again, public spending is rising. And how big is public spending? Six or seven hundred billion? So the scale of the mistake turns out to be a little over one per cent of state spending.

Someone's phone went off. It crooned "Come fly with me, come fly away with me..."

Their joint "plan for growth" was proudly contrasted with Osborne's plan "to crush the economy". We're back to the old fairytale Gordon Brown used to spin about draculine child-stealing Tories and heroic, high-spending Labour. But the evidence wasn't particularly there to support the second half of that proposition.

The Eds' plan is to put an extra 0.3 per cent of public spending into the construction industry. A plan for 0.3 per cent of anything is no plan. And according to the Voodoo adviser, every £1 spent in construction creates £2.60 in the economy. Why not recommend putting £100bn into building houses to generate £260bn? No answer. Maybe we should have asked.

A sharp question was asked, and Balls gave no answer worth recording. How many Brits would get these 110,000 construction jobs that traditionally go to eastern Europeans, and how many workers in that notoriously casual industry paid tax and NI? "I'm not sure I accept your characterisation," he said.

Miliband didn't accept a characterisation either. The Mirror asked about the fury in the Parliamentary Labour Party that they abstained on the Welfare Bill. He denied any fury (not strictly true though, was it?)

The MVP for Most Vainglorious Platitude went to Balls. "It's the job of the Chancellor to anticipate unexpected events," he said.

What, like seeing the end of the economic cycle rise up like a 50-foot-high wall of filthy water to sweep away your reputation?

(*Balls outspoke Miliband on a rough estimate of 66-34.)



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