The devil, of course, is in the detail, and the Shadow Chancellor went on to say that the government should ‘aim’ to run a surplus ‘in normal times’ ‘if the economic circumstances allow’. Any one of those caveats undermines the proposed law; taken together they render it utterly meaningless.
It leaves us with a tough choice – we can either believe that he’s intelligent enough to know that the exercise is thus a completely pointless one, in which case we have to conclude that he thinks we’re all too stupid to reach the same conclusion, or else we can believe that he really thinks that the proposed law is worthwhile, in which case electing him as Chancellor would be a dangerous move, to say the least.
I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that the former is more likely. The Tories know that the proposed law is economic nonsense; it’s about politics not economics. They’ll find as many caveats and exclusions as Labour in practice. But the aim of the law is to reinforce the ideological stricture about budgets and spending; to shift the Overton window of debate in their direction. And instead of attempting to put an alternative view, Labour has not so much fallen for the trap as taken an enthusiastic running jump into it.