I’ve just heard Jim Naughtie interview Ed Balls (Today 7.10), the prospective MP. It was mainly notable for Naughtie's amazing slip how he and Ed were going to win the election (mp3 here). But Balls was also good value.
He's certainly come on since that bemusing post-neoclassical endogenous business, and he’s obviously now been to New Labour sound bite school. Best economy in the world, jobs, brilliant public services, vote for Tories a vote for the Stone Age etc.
Anyway, Naughtie asked him about all those stealth tax rises, including National Insurance. Why hadn’t we been told about their plans before the 2001 election?
Balls responded that the government had been completely open- NI was being increased to pay for the NHS.
What? But that was after the election, wasn’t it?
Well, for the usual reasons of bias or ignorance, N didn’t actually ask that. Even though it’s one of the very worst examples of New Labour economy with the actualité.
Here’s Paxman’s interview with the super-slippery Blair before the last election:
“PAXMAN:Why won't you give a guarantee about national insurance?
BLAIR:Because I am not entering into a situation where we start writing a budget.
PAXMAN:Why are you prepared to make a guarantee about income tax?
BLAIR:Because the specific manifesto pledges we made last time on income tax we have repeated.
PAXMAN:But you also gave an assurance on national insurance, not in the manifesto, but Gordon Brown gave it, that the ceiling wouldn't be raised
BLAIR:Yes, but if we end up going through each of the reliefs.
PAXMAN:Why could you do it last time and not this time?
BLAIR:We are. We are making precisely the same tax pledges in our manifesto as we did last time.
PAXMAN:No you are not. With the greatest of respect, last time you promised the ceiling on national insurance would not be raised, or the Chancellor did.
BLAIR:What Gordon Brown was asked was about the abolition of the national insurance ceiling in the context of the 1992 shadow budget. I have been asked this question ad nauseam in the campaign and what I have answered is that we have not clobbered higher tax earners, we have no intention of doing so. But if you start on national insurance, then you are on to inheritance tax.
PAXMAN:I'm only asking about national insurance.
BLAIR:I know but that's where you would end up. What I can't do is sit here and write a budget, I am afraid.
PAXMAN:I am merely asking you why you could give this guarantee last time but you can't give it this time and whether any reasonable person wouldn't suppose that you therefore propose to increase national insurance contributions.
BLAIR:Because we are not writing a budget now. We have a record of four years to stand on where we haven't done any of these things. Indeed, we have been careful to make sure that the highest income earners are not put at risk or their incentives reduced. I have no intention of going back on that now.
PAXMAN:Isn't it intellectually incoherent to say what you will do with one tax and not another tax, which is levied on almost the same basis?
BLAIR:No, it's not intellectually incoherent, you are simply choosing what you will and won't say.
PAXMAN:Wouldn't a reasonable person conclude that the reason you don't wish to say it is because you plan to raise it?
BLAIR:No, they wouldn't, because you could go through 250 different reliefs and I can't sit here and write a budget.”
So Mr Balls, that’s just how open you were with us before the last election. Choosing what you will and will not say.