So, what does Ed Balls think should be done about “rising inflation”, which he seems to think is a bad thing, and to secure the greater borrowing that Labour's deficit reduction plans imply – must interest rates go up? He could ask his brother at Pimco. After all, as the Sunday Times, Independent and Daily Telegraph pointed out last July: “...the bond house's European investment team is headed by Andrew Balls, brother of Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls.”So it was worth listening carefully on 25 March when BC Radio 4’s Today programme had an item on Portugal’s debt problem which had just led to their Prime Minister resigning. The Today website later reported the following:
Andrew Balls, head of European investments at the world's largest bond traders, Pimco, told the programme that eurozone countries face "weeks of ongoing uncertainty".Evan Davis, who was Andrew Balls’ interviewer, didn’t introduce him as Ed’s brother. Andrew B wasn’t asked for his reaction to the warnings a day earlier from credit ratings agencies Fitch and Moody's that weaker growth or persistently high inflation could jeopardise the UK's prized AAA rating. Davis also didn’t ask Andrew B about the bond market’s view of Labour’s alternative to the Coalition’s economic policies. This had been set out by Ed B, also the day before, in the Budget debate, and it is interesting to read his speech in full in Hansard. A key extract:
"Portugal has essentially lost access to financial markets," he said, making it more difficult for the country to meet repayment deadlines coming up in the next few months.
And he added that it was "hard to see significant default risk" in United Kingdom, the United States and Japan, all of which have their own currencies, their own central banks and more flexibility over financial policy.
Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman please share his plan and growth strategy with us?Andrew came over as a calmer character than Ed,
Ed Balls: I will gladly share our plan. First, the economy was strengthening and unemployment was falling- …Unemployment was falling and growth was rising because we were halving the deficit over the four years. The Chancellor has gone from halving the deficit to trying to get rid of it entirely in four years, by implementing the largest cuts to spending and tax rises of any economy in the world. It is not working. In fact, we heard today that Moody's, the credit rating agency, is looking at whether it needs to downgrade the British economy because of the threats to growth following yesterday's Budget.
Halving the deficit over four years was ambitious but deliverable. Eliminating the budget deficit in four years means a massive fiscal contraction. Unless we suspend all the laws of economics, assume that no international evidence counts, and believe that fiscal multipliers do not count in our kind of economy, that kind of contraction in fiscal policy and its impact on the public and private sectors is crushing. Only Greece is trying to go faster. We have already seen the biggest fall in consumer confidence for 20 years, and unemployment is up before the cuts have really started to bite.
ADDENDUM 30 MARCH: John Rentoul today posted on his Independent blog a profile of Ed Balls which he had written for GQ magazine in March 2009. This reveals that Andrew Balls is seven years younger than Ed, also went to Oxford (subject not clear from Rentoul’s article) and also worked for the FT, but left for fund management.