Ed Balls is currently addressing the Labour conference, and
we’ll post full analysis of his speech once he’s done. But as he
continues, it’s worth highlighting that the Shadow Chancellor has
just given his strongest indication yet that Labour will drop its
support for HS2. He said:

‘David Cameron and George Osborne have made clear they will go full steam ahead with this project – no matter how much the costs spiral up and up. They seem willing to put their own pride and vanity above best value for
money for the taxpayer. ‘Labour will not take this irresponsible approach. So let me be clear, in tough times – when there is less money around and a big deficit to get down – there will be no blank cheque from me as a Labour Chancellor for this project or for any project. ‘Because the question is – not just whether a new High Speed line is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our
country.’

Previously Balls has simply used the ‘no blank cheque’ line, so it is significant that he is now questioning whether this project is the right use of money at all,
even if it doesn’t exceed the cap that Maria Eagle has already set.

This is clearly part of his drive to appear fiscally responsible and would be a big gesture in that direction.

PS: I’d like to draw your attention to the imminent Spectator debate: ‘HS2 must not never be allowed to happen’. Further details can be found on our events website.

Tags: Ed Balls, Labour conference 2013, UK politics