And Balls just keeps pummelling Gove

Uncut is completely neutral in the leadership election. We have occasionally been accused of being closet Balls backers. This is wrong. We are not.

But we have consistently argued for a leadership campaign in which the candidates actually demonstrate some leadership, rather than just pontificate about it.

This means taking the fight to the Tories. Getting on with the war of attrition that is opposition.

Perhaps the reason some have badged us Ballsites is that he has been overwhelmingly the best of the candidates at this.

The letter below is not just a blistering, forensic attack on Michael Gove’s handling of the building schools for the future farrago, it is yet another such attack.

Balls is spewing out challenge, counter-attack, rebuttal and rejoinder every day. Most days several times. Usually till late at night. His work on this has been a key factor in keeping this story running hard, putting real pressure on Gove and the Tories. Gove is in trouble because of Balls.

Ed is well placed to do this, obviously. Not only is he the former secretary of state, but in Vernon Coaker and Jim Knight he has two former schools ministers running his campaign. His spin doctor, Alex Belardinelli, was at DCSF with him and also knows the ground. And Gove, equally obviously, has handled the issue disastrously, providing great material for attack.

But the buck stops where it stops and massive credit accrues to Ed Balls for driving this forward the way he continues to do. This issue is hurting the Tories. And it is really hurting their most talismanic star.

No other leadership candidate is making comparable efforts to harry their departmental successors.

This does not mean that Ed Balls is the best man to be leader. But it cannot be escaped that he is the only one of the five who is behaving like one.

The text of Ed’s latest Sunday afternoon letter to Michael Gove is below.

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

Secretary of State, Department for Education,

Sanctuary Buildings

Great Smith Street

London, SW1P 3BT

11 July 2010

Dear Michael,

A number of serious allegations have been made in newspaper reports today about your handling of the decision to cut the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Ahead of Education Questions in the House of Commons tomorrow, I hope you will be able to clarify the following points:

–          Did you at any point receive advice from Departmental officials or Partnerships for Schools which recommended or suggested consulting with local authorities before publishing the lists of schools?

–          Did you at any point receive advice from Departmental officials or Partnerships for Schools which recommended or suggested not publishing the lists of schools to be stopped or reviewed, but instead starting a formal process of review and consultation?

–          What advice did you receive about potential compensation claims from local authorities, contractors and suppliers from cancelling capital projects such as Building Schools for the Future?

–          What criteria were used to decide which BSF schools would be ‘unaffected’ and which would be ‘stopped’ and when were these decided on?

–          When did you make a final decision that all future Academies should be placed ‘under discussion’?

–          When did you make a final decision that all ‘sample projects’ would be placed ‘under discussion’?

–          How many separate lists of schools were commissioned by Ministers or special advisers in the last eight weeks?

–          Were the briefings against the chief executive of Partnerships for Schools contained in some of today’s newspapers authorised by you?

I have also had the opportunity to read your statement to the House on 5 July in greater detail and would be grateful if you could answer the following questions:

–          Were you aware, before your statement, that BSF now has only five ‘meta stages’ and not the nine which you listed in your statement?

–          You claimed that BSF had not met any of its targets. Over the last three years, what were the targets for BSF and how many have been met?

–          Which BSF school was “built with corridors so narrow the whole building had to be reconstructed”, as you claimed in your statement?

–          Which BSF school “had to be closed because the doors could not cope with high winds”, as you claimed in your statement?

In your statement of 5 July you also claimed that BSF projects were being frozen because “they had not been properly funded”.

Following your statement the Permanent Secretary in your Department wrote to me to confirm that “decisions on capital expenditure, including those relating to Building Schools for the Future, were subject to Treasury clearance, where appropriate” and “if any actions on this, or any other matter, were in breach of the requirements of propriety or regularity, I would have sought a Ministerial Direction. I can confirm that I made no such requests during your time as Secretary of State.”

In light of the Permanent Secretary’s letter, I would now ask you to set the record straight as a matter of urgency.

Rather than publishing a fifth list of schools to be axed, I urge you to withdraw all these error-strewn lists and think again. Building Schools for the Future should continue to be a priority for capital expenditure in the Department for Education, not free schools.

Given the confusion in the House of Commons over your statement and associated information last Monday, I am writing to you well in advance of Education Questions tomorrow to give you the opportunity to set out a response to all these issues in writing.

As you will see from the Order Paper these are matters which will be raised in the House of Commons tomorrow and it is important that MPs can scrutinise and debate these issues with full information available to them. I am, therefore, copying this letter to the Speaker.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Balls

Shadow Secretary of State for Children & Education

Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses to “And Balls just keeps pummelling Gove”

  1. Balls is doing well, but he does have an easy target.

    Burnham ought to be ripping Lansley to shreds, but Abbott doesn’t have a shadow ministerial role and neither of the Milibands has much of a chance, as Huhne is keeping his head down and Hague is doing his best not to be objectionable.

    So yes, Balls is ahead on this front now, but it’s partly through greater opportunity.

  2. Alex_N says:

    Ed is simply doing what a good Shadow Minister should be doing – harrying and challenging his opposite number. That is not the same as Leadership.

    Whilst Ed is being quite effective in troubling Gove, at some point he will have to step outside of the Education Secretary mindset and project himself as someone capable of setting out a vision and transforming Labour into a Government in waiting.

  3. BC45 says:

    Out of the five contenders, Ed’s been the most consistently impressive. And I’m not sure he’s the one-trick pony being depicted by some: yes, he’s good in a fight, but he’s also showing himself to be smart, engaged and with a willingness to reestablish the party’s focus on issues of social justice.

  4. Gary says:

    I agree that Ed Balls has performed fantastically since the election, and is really landing blows on the Tories over their disastrous education proposals, but Alex_N does have a point – there is more to leading a party than this. Still, even if he doesn’t become leader, he is definitely going to be a strong asset to the Labour Party in opposition, and is making a strong case to land a prominent job in the Shadow Cabinet. Perhaps he might just end up with the Chancellors job that he was/wasn’t interested in.

  5. Jane says:

    I do not agree. I loathe his style. Unlike Michael Gove who took responsibility for a Quango who produced the figures, Mr Balls blamed the Head of a Quango over the exam fiasco. It was the first time I became aware of this matter when the Head of the exams body appeared before a select committee.

    I accept that Mr Balls is an intelligent man. After all my reading of political diaries and memoirs noone will ever persuade me that he has the personality to become PM. This is what should be in the forefront of all our minds. He is much too aggressive and indeed behaved as a thug in the past in his behaviour towards many in the party including Tony Blair. I also associate him with Gordon Brown and I again was not impressed with those who surrounded the former PM. Mr Whelan (Nick Cohen recalls his nasty briefing), Mr MacBride et al. I place Mr Balls in this camp and I do not want to know such people. Many of those who nominated him are not my favourite people either. The next leader needs to appeal to Middle England – not just C2’s either. Mr Balls would not do so.

  6. AmberStar says:

    I like Yvette Cooper for chancellor; Labour could be the first party to have a woman in that job – & she’s already shown she’s up to it. 😎

Leave a Reply