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Labour leadership: Ed Balls joins race

By Anna Doble, Channel 4 News

Updated on 19 May 2010

Ed Balls joined the Labour leadership contest by pledging to "listen to people on the doorstep" before deciding the future direction of the party.

Ed Balls is expected to enter the race to be Labour leader. (Credit: Reuters)

Mr Balls declared his candidacy during a visit to Gedling in Nottinghamshire where he chatted and drank cups of tea with supporters.

He said: "It's a really important election for our party but also the country. Despite some really good campaigns we didn't win in some areas, we have got to listen and see what the public have to say.

"It is really important that we are a campaigning party, and a listening party."

Mr Balls, the former children's, schools and families secretary, was known as Gordon Brown's closest ally. Avoiding a "Portillo moment" at the general election, the 43-year-old clung onto the seat of Morley and Outwood.

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Asked whether his close relationship with the former prime minister might hinder his chances of winning the Labour leadership - as the party looks for a fresh start - Balls said: "I am very proud of the work I did in government in the past 12 years, and I think people will look back and say Gordon did some good things – but I don't think this election will be looked at in those terms."

He joins brothers David and Ed Miliband - the former foreign and energy secretaries - and backbencher John McDonnell who have already said they will be contenders in the race for the Labour crown.

On the subject of leadership opponents, he said: "We have been friends and colleagues for a long time, I am very proud of those friendships. Whoever wins this election I will back them 110 per cent.

"We have some similarities in terms of things we have done, David has been working for Britain as foreign secretary, Ed did some great work for climate change, and I worked with schools and Sure Start most recently.

"But the reality of life is that we are forged by different experiences and friendships and people are different."

He added: "Leadership is about being strong and being able to make tough decisions, but also about having the right values and genuinely listening to people."

Balls previously served as chief economics adviser to Brown and the Treasury and he is married to former work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper - who has said it is "not the right time" for her to enter the contest.

The battle for Labour's job will conclude on 25 September just days before the Labour party conference in Manchester, where the new leader will be unveiled.

Leftwinger Jon Cruddas and acting leader Harriet Harman have ruled themselves out of the running. Former health secretary Andy Burnham is still "taking soundings" on whether to stand.

Earlier in the day Labour leftwinger John McDonnell also declared his candidacy, and slammed the strict leadership rules.

He said: "To be frank with you the whole process is stitched up from the start, it renders it almost impossible to get on the ballot paper. If I couldn't get on the ballot paper in 2007, it is going to be extremely difficult to get on this time around."

He called on the trade unions, and wider party, to back his bid.

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