Treasury questions began with the single most depressing sentence that can fall on Labour ears. The fact is, Osborne declared, we are experiencing the fastest growth in employment since records began.
What a terrible time to fight an election from the left – its ideology is being cut to ribbons by events.
In a time of public sector cuts, employment is unaccountably soaring.
Tax cuts are perversely producing higher tax revenues.
Austerity refuses to stifle growth even though anyone who is anyone knows it must.
And while the Right keeps talking about its long term economic plan (14 mentions today), the Left has neither a long term communications strategy – or even a short term one (their Leader’s Welfare reforms from last week: 0 mentions).
Ed Balls looked like the stuffing had been knocked out of him. That’s a lot of stuffing.
But wait. At Topical questions the energy flooded back into him. His power and purpose returned. What could have invigorated him – a bank failure? The closure of a car plant? The collapse of the global economy? The fatal struggle of his leader with a trouser press?
No, he rose to inform the House that Andy Coulson had just been found guilty of phone hacking. Would the Chancellor now accept –
The Speaker rose, a little embarrassed at having to interrupt his old friend. He pointed out apologetically that Andy Coulson didn’t have any immediate particular obvious connection with the British economy or the Treasury. And if there had been a relevant connection it would surely have emerged by now? Or wouldn’t it? Oh, go on then, have another go.
Balls had another go. Hadn’t Osborne brought the Treasury into disrepute by hiring Andy Coulson? Tory rage, a biting reference to Damian McBride, cries of “Disgraceful!” from all sides.
Eyes bulging, voice booming, rage blossoming. It was good to see Ed Balls’ spirits restored.
Poor fellow, he fears with sick dread that tomorrow will heap more disaster on his head: more employment, higher growth, lower inflation. They might even not put up interest rates and he would have to admit that everything he’s ever believed was wrong.