Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Probe into Leak as Balls Says: There Was No Plot

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Probe into Leak as Balls Says: There Was No Plot

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor Joe Murphy

A WHITEHALL inquiry was ordered today into the leak of papers belonging to Ed Balls that revealed new details of intense infighting in the last Labour government.

The documents appear to have been mislaid or hijacked when Mr Balls moved out of his Cabinet minister's office at the Department for Education before last year's general election.

They were published in embarrassing detail in today's Daily Telegraph, laying bare how Gordon Brown battled and schemed with allies including Mr Balls to establish himself as Mr Blair's successor after the 2005 election. Mr Balls, who was playing cricket at Lords for the Commons team this morning, denied that he was part of any plot, saying: "There is nothing here to justify talk of a plot." The shadow chancellor said the papers referred only to discussions "about how we would manage that transition [from Blair to Brown]". He said the leak was "an attempt to take attention away from what is going on in this country". Codenamed Project Volvo -- because Mr Brown's strengths were seen by pollsters as similar to the reliable but dull car -- the papers show Mr Brown aimed to reshape the post-Blair Labour Party with "brutal" vigour.

Much of the negotiations were carrying on in July 2005 when Mr Blair was dealing with the London bombings.

The Conservatives seized on the cache as proof that Mr Balls could not be trusted by leader Ed Miliband.

Tory MP Michael Fallon said: "While Britain's debt doubled, welfare spending spiralled out of control and education standards fell, they were obsessing about getting rid of the elected prime minister. They can never be trusted with government again." A source close to Mr Balls said the papers had last been seen by the minister when he left his ministerial office before the general election. They were on his L-shaped desk ready to be boxed and moved to his Commons quarters if Labour lost.

Mr Balls was not aware they were missing until the leak was published. That means they could have been accidentally left behind in Whitehall as the Coalition moved in, or taken at a later date. …

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