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June 26, 2013 4:16 pm
In the Labour-held marginal of Birmingham Edgbaston, a middle class suburb noted for its restaurants and fee-paying schools, news of the chancellor’s statement was greeted with resignation, with people bracing themselves for further austerity whoever wins the next election.
“People don’t feel it’s a great policy at the moment but if they can look into the future I think they will appreciate what the Tories are doing,” says Irene Pemberton, manager of a business centre who lives off Hagley Road.
She predicts the Tories may well retake the seat, currently held by Labour’s Gisela Stuart.
Once a Tory stronghold, with Neville Chamberlain, the prime minister its most famous MP, Edgbaston has been held by Labour since 1997, with Ms Stuart defending the seat even in the crushing Labour defeat of 2010.
Labour might have expected to consolidate its position in 2015, because of the unpopularity of the coalition’s policies. But with tentative signs of recovery – and with Labour in effect endorsing coalition spending plans – some believe Labour’s hold on the seat could prove precarious.
Tony Sartorius, a businessman, says: “If things on the economy improve, that certainly is going to have an influence. It could swing to the Tories.”
He listened to the chancellor’s statement and welcomes the infrastructure investment announcements. But he says: “When I look back there ought to have been more stimulus. It’s all been painfully slow.”
David Bailey, an economist and Edgbaston resident who has long advocated a fiscal stimulus, feels betrayed by Labour’s change of position.
“Ed Balls had been spot on in opposing austerity but now appears to back it which raises the question of whether Labour has in fact capitulated to austerity.”
He adds: “Indeed, there is in fact very little difference between what the government and Labour are now proposing.”
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