Charlie Elphicke is the Member of Parliament for Dover and Deal. Follow Charlie on Twitter.
As soon as some money wafts by Ed Balls can be relied on to grab it and misspend it. The 4G auction episode shows how hopelessly addicted to spending they still are. £4Bn? Nevermind the deficit and £1trillion of debt, let’s spend the lot!
Labour say they would use the money for youth unemployment and social housing. Yet their record on youth unemployment in the last Parliament was dismal. At the time of the 2005 General Election, youth unemployment was 613,000 – it rose 52% to 929,000 by the end of the Parliament. A fact they would rather you forgot when they lecture the Government on a rise of less than 10% under the Coalition.
Meanwhile, Labour’s record on social housing was equally appalling. During Labour’s period in office households on local authority waiting lists went from one million in 1997 to 1.75 million in 2010. Far from being concerned to increase social housing provision, the amount of social housing fell from 4.25 million homes in 2002 to just four million by the end of their time in office.
For sure, Labour would want you to believe that next time it will be different. That they have learned from the past and that are now ready to be trusted again. They even claim they will have a zero based spending review if they are in Government to burnish their armour of fiscal rectitude. Except that we’ve heard it all before. The 1998 spending review conducted when Balls was lurking at the Brown Treasury as an adviser claimed to be a “zero based analysis”. The comprehensive spending review of 2007 – when Balls was a Treasury Minister – was a “zero based review”.
Despite the various zero based reviews history tells us that Labour failed to rein in spending – indeed they were as hopelessly addicted to spending then as they clearly are now. The fear for us all is that their next zero based review will be like all their other zero based reviews over the past decade and end up with more uncontrolled poorly targeted spending whose only effect would be to risk our credit rating and drive up interest rates for hard-pressed homeowners.
This is why Conservative criticism that Labour still isn’t learning hits the mark. They haven’t learned fiscal continence and they haven’t given us any indication that they have any idea how to spend more wisely. Indeed it doesn’t look like Labour can or will learn much while Ed Balls is Shadow Chancellor. Let’s not forget that on the Today Programme recently he said how proud he was of Labour’s record. It’s clear he cannot see that the years of overspending and structural deficits left Britain’s public finances in disarray, a mountain of debt and left our economy deeply exposed when the downturn came. He remains a deficit denier who has learned nothing and forgotten nothing – Labour will remain uncredible and unelectable while he remains in post.