AS Chancellor George Osborne rose in the House of Commons yesterday to deliver his Autumn Statement, it must have taken every scrap of restraint he possesses to stop himself staring down his opposite number, Ed Balls, and saying: “I told you so.”
For months the boisterous MP for Morley and Outwood has been behaving like an overgrown public schoolboy – which in fact is exactly what he is – shouting juvenile abuse at the government front bench and making “flatlining” gestures with his hands to indicate the state of the economy.
Well, the Shadow Chancellor wasn’t making any flatlining gestures yesterday, because he can’t.
Far from flatlining, the economy is in the midst of a remarkable recovery.
We have seen three successive quarters of robust growth and the independent Office of Budget Responsibility has radically revised its growth forecast upwards from 0.6 per cent to 1.4 per cent this year, reaching a healthy 2.3 per cent next year.
In fact, as Mr Osborne pointed out, the UK has one of the fastest growing economies in the West, surpassing even the industrial powerhouses of Germany and the USA.
As a result, unemployment is down and each of the million jobs axed from the bloated public sector has been replaced by three jobs in the surging, wealth-creating private sector.
This encouraging performance has also enabled Mr Osborne to drastically cut borrowing and begin paying down the enormous deficit which was the main legacy of Labour’s 13 years in power.
In fact Mr Balls was not only the main architect of the economic crash that caused all the problems in the first place, he has also been entirely wrong about the solutions that are needed over the last three years. Mr Balls and Labour opposed every single one of even the modest cuts in public spending proposed by the coalition government arguing they went “too far, too fast”.
Instead they proposed a classic big government, statist approach – higher taxes, more spending, more borrowing and more debt.
Labour said we should follow the example of Francois Hollande, the great socialist hero and president of France, who emphatically rejected austerity and continued to spend. Today, France’s economy is deep in recession and Hollande’s popularity is at an all-time low.
Of course, as the Chancellor pointed out, the UK recovery is far from secure and hard decisions, such as increasing the pension age in line with greater life expectancy, are needed.
And, sadly, we remain handcuffed to the rotting corpse of the EU which could drag us under at any minute.
All the progress made through painful sacrifices could all be for nothing – particularly if the country is mad enough to elect another profligate Labour government in 2015.
If the notion of Chancellor Ed Balls taking up residence in 11 Downing Street doesn’t give you screaming nightmares, then nothing will.
The lessons of the last three years are clear; even tiny cuts in public spending have had a big impact in terms of growth and prosperity. How much better could we do with more meaningful reductions in the size of government?
The future lies in smaller government, lower taxes, more jobs and higher growth.
But don’t expect Ed Balls to admit as much, or to concede he has been entirely wrong on pretty much every major issue throughout his political career.
Instead, to great hilarity in the Commons, he claimed the Chancellor was “in a state of denial”. This is as classic a case of what Sigmund Freud described as “psychological projection” as you are ever likely to see.