Ed Balls will spar more effectively with George Osborne than Alan Johnson would have dared. At least Ed has some understanding of the tax system and of economic policy. We can expect him to pursue more realistic economic and tax policies than might otherwise have been the case. How many will be properly costed and realistic rather than simply populist remains to be seen.
It often seemed that some of the more effective tax policies pursued by Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor could be traced back to Ed Balls. Rightly or wrongly I assumed that the worst tax changes introduced by Brown were entirely his own idea. I trust therefore that Ed Balls had no hand in the IR35 fiasco or the short-lived introduction of a 0% starter rate of corporation tax. What we do know is that he has long claimed he would not have made the mistake of abolishing the 10p starter rate of income tax.
Will Ed’s, no doubt, continued connections with civil servants from his days at the Treasury come in useful? For example, will he be able to engineer ‘leaks’ that damage the Government?
I suspect there will continue to be a need to debunk tax stories whether they emanate from the Government or from the opposition. Tim Harford does this on his Radio 4 programme, ‘More or Less’ and I have a go too on the TaxBuzz blog.
Mark Lee, Chairman of the Tax Advice Network