Britain needs 'open, rational' economic debate, say Greens

By staff writers
19 Jun 2011

The Green Party in England and Wales has called for an end to "arbitrary, ego-driven economic policy-making". It wants an "open, rational debate" about sustainability - drawing on "an empirically drawn understanding of our economy and society".

The comments came in response to Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls's speech at the London Scool of Economics (LSE), refuting chancellor George Osborne's deficit reduction strategy.

The Greens say they back the main critique, but suggest that but Mr Balls has failed to apply his most powerful arguments to his own party's policies.

He "correctly argued that the regressive VAT increase and drastic fiscal austerity, combined with interest rates that can be lowered no further, have shaken our economy by stoking inflation and driving unemployment up to 7.9 per cent," say the Greens.

Chancellor Osborne's "shock therapy" has forced an increase in UK borrowing by an additional £46 billion on top of what was forecast after the Spending Review, they argue.

"But Balls's most profound insight was one that the Green Party has been articulating since 2010," the party says in a press statement.

"Ed Balls admits that he only recently realised that Osborne's decisions on the UK's economic course were made for party political benefit. Britain is suffering because the Conservatives have decided it will make them more electable if they can eliminate the deficit in a single parliament - whatever the cost.

"Yet Balls has failed to apply his new found rationale to himself and the Labour Party's economic strategy: because the Coalition has made the decision to eliminate the deficit in a single parliament, Ed Balls has tried to trump them, calling for the deficit to be halved in the same amount of time."

Like Osborne, Balls' figure and time frame has been dictated by political opportunism and lacks intellectual economic justification, the Greens say.

Their own approach would dispose of political time frames and focus on green investment rather than austerity, pressing for a 'Green New Deal' (also backed by a range of other political, think-tank and campaign groups, including Ekklesia) that could flexibly respond to long term economic and social trends rather than simply "serving to prop individual political egos".

* The full transcript of Ed Balls' speech on the economic alternative, at the LSE on 16 June 2011, can be read at: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2011/06/george-osborne-growth-deficit

[Ekk/3]

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