Interesting rumours have been trickling out of the PLP and Labour HQ over the past fortnight about the seemingly imminent reshuffle. Uncut has pieced together various accounts to give a view of just what has been going on.
Earlier this month, amid the fall-out from the Scottish referendum and Labour conference, as MPs’ discontent with Ed Miliband bubbled up into the press, a plan was hatched by the leader’s inner circle. A move so bold that it would reset the political clock, seize the attention of the journalists and demonstrate Ed Miliband’s leadership credentials.
The long awaited reshuffle was overdue and its centre-piece was to be Ed Balls’ ejection from his brief as shadow chancellor.
The tensions between the leader’s office and Ed Balls’ team have been well-documented. Ed Balls was not Ed Miliband’s first choice as shadow chancellor – that was Alan Johnson – and from the leaked e-mails last year, where Ed Balls was described as a “nightmare,” by Ed Miliband’s advisers, to the two Eds’ splits over whether to retain the 50p rate of tax and their widely aired disagreement on whether to back or bin HS2, the relationship has always been uneasy.
With Labour trailing the Tories by twenty points on the economy and discontent on the left and right of the party with Labour’s economic offer, the rationale for action was obvious.
Balls’ potential destination was unclear. One option canvassed was foreign secretary with Douglas Alexander becoming a full time general election co-ordinator. However, the preferred choice was a switch to home affairs, with his wife, Yvette Cooper, becoming shadow chancellor.
Come what may, Ed Balls would have been furious, but to cause trouble in the run-up to the general election would have been difficult. All the more so,if his wife was the shadow chancellor, a role it would have been difficult for Cooper to turn down, especially given her own ambitions to lead if Labour is defeated next year.