Johnson’s departure gives Balls the economic reins
It seems Alan Johnson’s departure from frontline politics is to do with affairs of the heart not health and not politics.
But Ed Miliband has seized the moment to put Ed Balls into the number one economic portfolio. He had little choice.
He’d ducked the choice of Ed Balls before for a number of reasons. Ed B was seen as too close to Gordon Brown, he didn’t want to rub brother David’s supporters’ noses in defeat. He now has Gordon Brown’s original kitchen cabinet, himself included, running the top jobs in the Party.
He had awkward relations with Ed Balls (as did the other promoted man today, Douglas Alexander). Ed Balls was accused of jealously guarding his access to Gordon Brown and knifing individuals who threatened that. Relations have improved – it was some of Ed Balls’ MP supporters giving Ed M their second preferences that tipped Ed M into his narrow leadership victory.
And Ed Balls was never a fan of Alistair Darling’s economic policy, something Ed Miliband decided in the end to hug pretty close, if not precisely follow.
In his press briefing just now, Ed Miliband said Labour would continue to follow the economic policy that he and Alan Johnson had been following. We shall see.
I hear Ed Miliband got a few days’ grace from Alan Johnson so he could get his reshuffle lined up.
He made contact with Ed Balls last night and Mr Balls signed up there to the Ed M/Alan Johnson/Alistair Darling deficit reduction plan.
To take on the inevitable criticism that this is a Brownite advance, it’s being emphasised that Douglas Alexander (ex-Brownite turned David Milibandite) will, along with Liam Byrne (also ex-David M supporter), sit on the economic policy group to make sure (my words not the leader’s) that Ed B doesn’t get it all his own way.
Unlike Alan Johnson, who kept his physical distance from Ed Miliband in Commons offices, Ed Balls will be moving into the offices George Osborne used to occupy next door to David Cameron’s…that was a symbol of the happy partnership the two enjoyed and Ed M’s folk are hoping they can achieve something similar. “I’ll watch that with interest,” one former Cabinet colleague of Ed Balls just said to me.