Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Balls' Warning Was No Balls Up

His master's voice, Ed Balls, seems to have dropped the boss right in it. Brown's side-kick delivered another bout of depression for the beleaguered prime minister, warning the recession will be worse than the 1930s. But this was no balls up, this was carefully planned. 

Balls' speech to the Labour Party faithful didn't say anything new or anything which the Party and the public didn't know was happening already. But it's the timing which is important. A speech of this significance doesn't get off the blocks without Downing Street clearance.

Balls told Labour's Yorkshire conference at the weekend the financial crisis will be "more extreme and more serious than that of the 1930s". That follows last week's use of the dreaded D-word by Brown in the commons, when Downing Street was quick to play down this sad 'slip of the tongue'. 

It seems to be at odds with everything government ministers have been telling the public for months. 

Either they've been telling porkies or haven't a clue what's going on - or they're getting their act together for a fresh line of attack. 

Balls and Downing Street have again tried to play down the significance with some spinning gobbledegook about the unique nature of the global financial crisis. 

The Conservatives said the remarks were "staggering and very worrying". They certainly are - for them. 

Balls is only saying publicly what ministers have known for a long time but for their own political survival have tried to play it down with first a daft downturn then a recession.

The worry has been that it could spread panic and anxiety, sap confidence, point the finger at Brown's past economic mistakes and turn away voters in their droves. 

But the public are no fools and can see what is happening all around them. The effect for Brown in particular has been to lose all credibility. 

The slide towards a US-style Great Depression has been anticipated by some political and economic commentators for a while. The Orange Party too warned of it here in January. 

The government tried it on with the spin over green shoots of recovery and fell flat on its face. 

The Brown bounce has evaporated and the government's whole economic record is on the line. 

As the Tory lead strengthens and an elections looms, Balls is reflecting a change in strategy to reposition themselves as the only Party to save the country from a scary deep Depression and a lurch to the Far Right, part of Brown's belated calls for a government of national unity - with New Labour of course at the helm. 

If you can't brow beat voters, confuse them. So expect more of this to-ing and fro-ing between green shoots of optimism and doom and gloom in the weeks to come as the government softens up voters for even tougher times ahead and their dreaded June elections. 

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