Balls May Be Right, but It Won't Stop the Tories Targeting Him; Columnist

The Journal (Newcastle, England), February 23, 2013 | Go to article overview

Balls May Be Right, but It Won't Stop the Tories Targeting Him; Columnist


Byline: Paul Linford

AT the end of last week's column, on the back of an opinion poll showing the party 11 points clear of the Tories, I suggested that the next general election in 2015 was beginning to look like it might be Labour's to lose.

Premature? Well probably. But there seems to be a growing view in political circles - not least on the Tory backbenches - that Labour is on course to become, at worst, the largest single party in another hung Parliament.

At the same time, however, there remains a strong awareness that despite favourable poll ratings and the growing unpopularity of the Coalition, the party still has one huge Achilles Heel: the economic record of the last Labour government.

And the man who, more than any other, personifies this is the Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls - Gordon Brown's chief economic adviser for most of his time at the Treasury and his closest political ally once he got to Number 10.

In my political preview of 2013, published on the last Saturday of 2012, I predicted that Labour leader Ed Miliband might eventually be obliged to resolve this difficulty by relieving Mr Balls of his responsibilities.

So it came as no huge surprise, to me at any rate, to see this view being repeated by no less a figure than Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College and the pre-eminent historian of the Blair-Brown years.

"As somebody who has written about you for many years it falls to me to say this: the time has come for you to fall on your sword," he told Mr Balls in a New Statesman article this week.

"Ed Miliband would be a much stronger leader without you. Forgive me, but you stop Ed breathing fresh air. With you close to him, his breath will always be stale and smell of a toxic brand Without you, Labour could present itself as a clean party, free of the factionalism and brutalism that so tarnished it when Brown was boss and you were his consigliere. " If the Godfather allusion seems unnecessarily brutal, Seldon at least went on to hold out the prospect that Mr Balls could one day return to the front bench as a "redeemed and respected figure. …

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