20 Jan 2011

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.

Ed Miliband with Ed Balls
Best of friends? Ed Miliband and new Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

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.

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7 reader comments

  1. Abe Hayeem says:

    Thank goodness! Alan Johnson looked completely out of his depth as shadow chancellor, and was ineffective in facing the Tories in their massive cuts policy. Balls has the balls to attack the horrendous cuts, and one hopes that he will bring up the case that there would be no need for such drastic cuts if the £100 billion in unpaid taxes by the ultra-rich,the big banks and corporations and taxes on their offshore accounts were clawed back. Also the £20 billion to pay for Trident, progressive taxation, taxing bankers bonuses so the pips squeak, and raising big corporation taxes, ending non-dom tax evasion…….but will he raise these issues and end the attack on the poor, disabled, and the ‘squeezed middle
    and aim for a fairer equal society?

  2. Ray Turner says:

    What was the text of that letter that the outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury left for his successor. Something along the lines of “Sorry, but there’s no money left!”, as I recall…

    Labour are going nowhere until they completely purge themselves of the people who created this fine mess…

  3. Meg Howarth says:

    A nasty comment from Cameron already, about Johnson being unable to cope. At present, Tessa Jowell – re-promoted to shadow cabinet (didn’t catch as what) – twittering on C4 News about forgetting the past and dealing with present, which has acted as a reminder to an item on this morning’s R4 Today: proposals to demolish the athletes’ Olympic stadium after the 2012 games over. How much has this cost us? No wonder she’s encouraging amnesia!

  4. Mudplugger says:

    That there were some ‘affairs of the heart’ involving Alan Johnson was been widely trailed in the blogosphere for some time – indeed it is probable that his decision not to stand for the party leadership was greatly influenced by the knowledge that this fact was already widely known and would inevitably become public.

    The more interesting aspect is to speculate on who chose this moment to reveal this ‘open secret’?
    The blog-focus lands on those very close to Ed Balls, the thwarted leadership candidate, previously thwarted Shadow Chancellor and only narrowly placed in his new Morley seat by an astonishing proportion of apparent postal votes.

    If I were Ed Miliband (which, thank the Lord, I’m not, sir), I’d make pretty damned sure that any skeletons in my cupboard were kept well away from the Balls’ orbit.

    After all, was it not Julius Caesar whose final reported words were “Et tu, Brute”? For Brutus, read Balls.

  5. Philip Edwards says:


    Does Ed Balls too think Boom and Bust was abolished during the last government’s tenure? Has he too been inculcated by permanent senior civil servants in Britain’s “diminishing role in the world” and thus made ready to rob working class citizens? Has he too decided to run away from confrontation with thieving transnational bankers and their crooked system?

    If his answers to the above questions are “Yes” then he will be no different from Brown, Darling or Osborne and all the rest of the modular righties.

    He might cause a minor ripple or two in the Palace of Varieties that is the House of Commons, even score several points off the hapless, corrupt Tories – not that difficult when you think about it – but he won’t make the slightest bit of difference to the economic system that poisons the socioeconomic life of this country.

    Tories, New Labour and LibDems all deserve the contempt they receive from our people. Not one of them has the courage to restore social decency and fairness in the political life of the nation.

    In short, Ed Balls is just another parliamentary clown.

  6. Sports Fan says:

    It will be much more fun to have Ed Balls in the key opposition position from now on. He is more combative, and has plenty to say.

    The coalition have plenty on him too, so I reckon there could be some good slapstick moments to come in the next few months.

    I also reckon that Balls will be able to land a few big blows.

  7. GinaG says:

    Ed Balls ………….. advisor to Gordon Brown, great………if he ever gets the key to number 11 it is time to leave the country.

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