The truth is that the chancellor, whoever he or she was, would have very little room for manoeuvre.
So the correct charge is against Ed Balls in not that he would be profligate but that he is promising policies he knows he would not be able to deliver.
Occasionally the truth seeps out from Labour.
Back in March 2010, at the start of the general election campaign, Alistair Darling admitted that
Labour's planned cuts in public spending will be "deeper and tougher" than Margaret Thatcher's in the 1980s, as the country's leading experts on tax and spending warned that Britain faces "two parliaments of pain" to repair the black hole in the state's finances.And in October last year the Guardian told us this:
Labour will be tougher than the Tories when it comes to slashing the benefits bill, Rachel Reeves, the new shadow work and pensions secretary, has insisted in her first interview since winning promotion in Ed Miliband's frontbench reshuffle.But for the most part it is easier for Labour to pretend that the constrains that have hobbled the Coalition would not apply to them. That way, they keep their activists and supporters in the press happy.