Posts Tagged ‘Ed Balls’

The cult of Ed Balls tells you everything you need to know about the hole that Labour moderates are in

29/04/2017, 09:45:09 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Nothing is more revealing of the emotional and political lacuna at the heart of the non-Corbyn Labour party than the veneration of Ed Balls.

It’s not just Ed Balls day. On its own that’s transitory Twitter fluff. More problematic is the way he’s viewed by so many moderates as this huge Labour presence. A lost sage, sprinkled with sparkly Strictly stardust.

His interventions are treated by MPs, former advisers, journalists and swathes of the Labour Twitterati as if he some extraordinary combination of Attlee and the Fonz. You can almost hear the giggling in the tweets gushing over him.

Labour’s problems with Jeremy Corbyn are well documented but less aired is the dire state of the alternative. In Michael Dugher’s valedictory interview with the New Statesman, explaining his reasons for standing down as an MP he said it was, “no good moderates blaming Corbyn. Labour members were lured to Corbyn out of desperation. What we offered didn’t inspire, it wasn’t radical, it was more of the same.”

Dugher is right and his long-time friend, Ed Balls, is a case study why moderates failed.

Balls was a very good economic adviser to Gordon Brown, an average performer in parliament on a good day (sometimes, as with his response to the Autumn Statement in 2014, he was atrocious), patchy on broadcast and an absolutely dreadful political strategist.

When he became shadow chancellor in early 2011, he set a benchmark for success as getting ahead of the Tories on the economy. Labour went into the 2015 election almost twenty points behind. That’s his responsibility.

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The Uncuts: 2016 political awards (part II)

31/12/2016, 02:47:52 PM

Labour politician of the year – Sadiq Khan

Jeremy Corbyn has had an unprecedented 2016. No one has ever been twice elected Labour party leader – with impressive margins on both occasions. He is entitled to feel tremendous pride. The chord that he has struck is undeniable.

It remains to be seen, though, whether this chord resonates with the wider public. This requires validation in a general election. While Sadiq Khan has not won a general election as Labour leader, his election as Labour Mayor in London is as near as a non-leader can get to these giddy heights.

Belief in clause one socialism, incrementally securing the common good via the tools that elected office affords, demands that Sadiq Khan be recognised as Labour politician of the year.

Khan’s campaign brilliantly weaved biography with policy – the son of a bus driver to fix the buses; the boy from the council estate to sort the houses – and has won a massive mandate for the implementation of progressive politics. At a time when, with Hillary Clinton defeated and Brexit happening, such politics is thought to be in reverse. That Khan made this happen with his status as a Muslim barely commented upon – except, sadly, by his Conservative opponent – is testament not only to his talents but also to the open and tolerant instincts of London, which, with Mayor Khan, London will preserve in the Brexit era.

In a bleak year, Khan’s victory was a beacon of light. For sake of Labour, progressives more generally, and all that is best about London, it is vital that he does not squander the bright future that he has managed to craft for himself.

Contribution to post-truth politics – Jeremy Corbyn

The exponential growth of fact-free politics during 2016 has led the judges to create this new award, and it is an already-crowded field. Clearly Donald Trump’s chutzpah in creating an entire campaign based on manipulating information obtained by Russian hacking, not to mention a swathe of old-fashioned untruths, put him clearly in the running. Then the Brexit campaign’s celebrated “£350m savings for the NHS”, later proven to be utter tosh, brought the whole thing to a new level.

However, the jury felt that it should not just be the degree of economy with the actualité, but also the length of time that the nominee had been involved in the politics of post-truth. And here there was one candidate who was felt to have started long before the others. the Contribution To Post Truth Politics Award for 2016 therefore goes to…Jeremy Corbyn.

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Ed Balls was a useless shadow chancellor

02/09/2016, 10:50:09 PM

by Kevin Meagher

‘You are only a man’ servants used to whisper in the ears of Roman generals to stop them believing their own hype on their triumphant return from battle.

It’s a pity no-one ever performed a similar service for Ed Balls.

The former shadow chancellor, who was unceremoniously ejected by the people of Morley and Outwood at the last election, is rematerializing into British politics, with a new book out about his life in politics and some unsolicited advice for the party.

The extracts show Balls for what he is: a clever and effective politician in many ways. Unfortunately for him, his curse is hubris.

His period as shadow chancellor under Ed Miliband was an unmitigated disaster for Labour.

Routinely 20 points behind Cameron and Osborne throughout the last parliament on questions of economic competence and trust, it was clear three years out from the election that the party was stone-cold dead on the economy.

His associations with the dog-days of Gordon Brown’s government meant Balls – so long his factotum at the Treasury – was an insane choice for the role.

He was a constant, corporeal reminder of Labour’s previous mistakes, which the party in government did so little to contextualise when it had the chance.

But he coveted the job when Alan Johnson, Miliband’s original shadow chancellor, quit. Pride got the better of him and he simply wasn’t slick enough to shake off previous form to win a second hearing.

At no point did he manage to alter the terms of political debate.

Labour spent too much and regulated too little. They didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining. They maxed out the credit card. They have no long-term economic plan. The blows rained down on Labour’s reputation and Ed Balls was not equal to the task of rebutting them.

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Is our altruistic response to Syria masking bigger public doubts?

08/09/2015, 10:51:59 AM

by Kevin Meagher

As politicians, Bob Geldof and the Catholic Church compete to entreat the British public to give up their spare room for a Syrian family, are we in danger of misreading where the real centre of gravity of British public opinion actually lies?

There’s a strong hint in the Survation poll in last Sunday’s Mail on Sunday that we are. Beneath the headline finding that 51 per cent of Brits would now vote to leave the EU, were a series of, what are, in the current climate, counter-intuitive findings about the migrant crisis.

Presented with a sliding scale of numbers from 0 to 300,000 and asked: ‘How many Syrian refugees should the UK accept’, the biggest response – 29 per cent – said ‘none’.

Half that amount – 15 per cent – said they thought Britain should take up to 10,000 (roughly the ministers are proposing over the next couple of years). Just four per cent were willing to see 30,000 or more.

And only a third of respondents (34 per cent) approved of Yvette Cooper’s plan ‘for each town to take in ten refugee families.’ 42 percent disapproved.

Meanwhile, a fifth (22 per cent) of those who believe we should remain in the EU changed their minds and opted to leave, ‘[i]f the migrant crisis gets worse’.

64 per cent of respondents thought David Cameron was ‘right to refuse to sign up to the EU’s migrant-sharing plan’. Just 22 per cent agreed.

What conclusion do we draw from these figures?

First, it seems apparent that political and media reaction is way ahead of public opinion. This isn’t to say voters aren’t moved by refugees’ plight, but they are experiencing ‘cognitive dissonance’ – holding two mutually exclusive opinions at the same time.

Or, to put it another way, they are responding with their hearts to individual tales of suffering relayed to them on the television news, but they think with their heads on the general issue.

There is no doubting that the public’s outpouring of sadness at the heart-rending pictures of tiny Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up on a Turkish beach was utterly genuine, but that doesn’t mean voters have dropped their guard when it comes to worrying about immigration.

Second, it’s clear that the prospect of further mass migration will send voters towards the EU exit in next year’s referendum.

Third, liberal politicians should beware thinking they can transpose individual tales into wider trends.

On the basis of this poll, they can’t.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut 

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It’s not all Ed’s fault

13/08/2015, 04:09:17 PM

by Kevin Meagher

If things had gone differently, Ed Miliband would now be enjoying a well-earned holiday somewhere hot, eagerly pursued by a retinue of security officers and sweaty officials, planning his first Labour conference speech as Prime Minister.

Perhaps, in a parallel universe, that’s precisely where he is, sat at a poolside table in his best long shorts and polo shirt, making awkward small talk with Justine as his sips a non-alcoholic cocktail and laughs nervously for the obligatory photo opportunity.

But it was not to be in this universe.

Instead, Miliband is an election loser. A fallen prophet. The man who broke the Labour party. Marked, forever, as a failure. Johnny No-Mates.

Par for the course, perhaps, when you fail to win what seemed an eminently winnable election, but just as Miliband’s reputation must sink with the ship, so, too, must others who are just as much to blame for Labour’s defeat. The cast of villains does not begin and end with Edward Samuel Miliband.

He was led astray by the polls, we know that much for certain, but that’s only part of the story. The groupthink of his supporters, the hubris, that, despite Miliband’s uninspiring performance and the voters more granular worries about the party’s trustworthiness and competence, especially on the economy, victory seemed, if not inevitable, then highly likely.

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Picking the right shadow chancellor is more important than the deputy leadership race

12/06/2015, 11:03:31 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Being deputy leader of the Labour party is a bit like being president of a golf club. The role is largely honorary, conferring on its incumbent a level of artificial seniority, safely removed from the actual running of things. At least with the golf club, you might get a few free rounds. The reward for being deputy leader of the Labour party is the graveyard slot on Thursday morning at the party conference.

Historically, it’s been used to bring balance to the leadership, so, in essence, the post-holder represents the losing wing of the party. So it was with Denis Healey and, later, with John Prescott. Occasionally, a bone is thrown to show the party’s progressive tendencies. So working-class Ted Short replaced snooty Roy Jenkins and Margaret Beckett became the first woman deputy leader (and interim leader following John Smith’s death).

The only interesting pitch in recent years, from someone hoping to become the rear portion of this particular pantomime horse, came from Jon Cruddas when he went for the job back in 2007. He promised to forego a frontbench role and instead concentrate on the unglamorous task of developing the party’s organisation. Most other contenders are happy to inherit this pitcher of warm spit on the basis that an upturned bucket offers the chance to step-up.

But it doesn’t. Labour’s next shadow chancellor is an altogether more important appointment for the future of the party. Whatever analysis is eventually settled on to explain the party’s dire election defeat, routinely finding itself 20 points behind David Cameron and George Osborne on questions of economic credibility and who voters trust to manage their money was surely a huge part of it.

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Answers to the questions of general election week 2015

09/05/2015, 12:28:51 PM

by Jonathan Todd

I asked five questions about this week at its start. Now we are at its end, we have our answers. And few of them are pretty. But amidst the rubble of Labour’s defeat, shards of opportunity protrude.

Will a “Sheffield rally moment” happen?

There was an eve of poll rally in Leeds but it generated few headlines. Rather than the Sheffield rally of 1992, we had humbling moments akin to Michael Portillo’s defeat in 1997. Douglas Alexander, Ed Balls and Jim Murphy were all symbolic and significant defeats for Labour. As were Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and Simon Hughes for the Liberal Democrats.

The churn in big names was high. The Parliamentary Labour Party has been shorn of major intellects and players. The Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Party even more so. Much changed eras dawn in both parties.

Can the Tories make it to 290 MPs?

The Tories cleared that threshold by a massive 41 seats. We erroneously thought that the Tories might fall short and that we’d be in for weeks of haggling over the government’s composition.

The 4 per cent swing to the Tories in the key seat of Nuneaton at about 2.30am brought the nightmare scenario of the BBC exit poll a decisive step closer to reality. The Tories did not just beat Labour in seats, like Nuneaton, that they were defending against us.

They prevented Labour PPCs from becoming or returning as MPs in a number of seats that had been held by Labour: Julie Hilling (Bolton West); Andy Sawford (Corby); Chris Williamson (Derby North); Martin Caton (Gower); Ed Balls (Morley and Outwood); Alison Seabeck (Plymouth Moor View); Rowenna Davis (Southampton Itchen); David Wright (Telford); and Chris Ruane (Vale of Clywd).

Conservative Amanda Solloway was so stunned to win Derby North that she hadn’t prepared a speech. “It was a bit of a surprise,” conceded Johnny Mercer, the new MP for Plymouth Moor View. Lucy Allan, who overturned David Wright’s majority, had been, “told Telford was totally unwinnable”.

“They couldn’t use NationBuilder,” Davis recently said of her Conservative opponents in Southampton Itchen. “They haven’t got the people to co-ordinate. And in an election where people don’t trust the media but do trust their neighbours, that’s a problem.” Somehow, however, the Conservatives did communicate more successfully than Labour in that seat.

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Week 2 of the campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly

12/04/2015, 11:25:54 AM

In a new feature for the general election, Uncut will be looking back at the end of each week at the good, the bad and the plain ugly of the campaign.

The good

Labour’s non-dom policy roll-out

This had everything: the element of surprise, backing from almost all sections of the media and public and a clear dividing line that placed the Tories on the side of one of the most egregiously privileged groups while Labour was the champion of the mainstream.

The way in which the Conservatives issued three press releases in 12 hours on this one issue illustrated the level of panic it generated.

And the muddled response that the Tories ultimately settled upon – criticising the micro-detail of the announcement while hawking around a partially edited video of Ed Balls from January this year – demonstrated how they crack under pressure.

The obvious move would have been to co-opt the policy, pretend this was something that had long been under consideration and use it to illustrate how we are all “in it together.”

It would have been a deft act of political ju jitsu, but instead, the much delayed Conservative response demonstrated an aching lack of judgement.

Once a Labour campaigner, always a Labour campaigner

He might be 82, but Lord Alf Dubs (standing on the left) is still pounding the streets for the party. Labour’s former MP for Battersea (1979-87) was out canvassing for Lee Sheriff in Carlisle yesterday, fresh from a visit to Scotland knocking up for candidates like Gregg McClymont. An example to all.

Samantha Cameron’s interview with the Mail on Sunday

The purpose of these soft focus spousal features is to humanise the leader, to open a window onto their home life. Normally, they fall short. They are too stilted, too focused on the politician with the spouse never rising above adjunct, even in their own interview.

This piece in last week’s Mail on Sunday is different. The candid manner in which Samantha Cameron discusses her deceased son, Ivan, gives the piece emotional heft and lifts it above the standard fayre. Samantha Cameron comes across as her own woman, and by the end it is David Cameron who is the adjunct.

Paradoxically, this is why it works as a piece of propaganda – Samantha Cameron does in fact humanise David Cameron. His bloodless and cold prime ministerial pallor is invigorated (somewhat) through his association with a strong woman. (more…)

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It is time to put some humanity back in the Treasury

31/03/2015, 03:20:44 PM

by Rajesh Agrawal

It is wrong for commentators to lazily blame Labour for the economic downturn and credit the Tories with the recovery.

The truth is, the recession wasn’t caused by Labour. It was the result of a serious collapse in the global banking system.

After five years of Conservative spin you might be forgiven for forgetting that Labour’s economic record in power was actually one of remarkable stability and sustained growth for the ten years before the banking crash. It was also a time when the vast majority of ordinary people felt the benefits of economic prosperity.

Far from irresponsible spending, Labour biggest deficit before the crash was 3.3% of GDP. Osborne’s currently stands at 4.6%.

In fact, Labour successful and responsible economic management was arguably the single biggest reason the Conservatives found it so difficult to win back power in 2001, 2005 and a majority in 2010.

By comparison, Osborne’s economic record is hardly a shining success story he claims.

The current recovery is the slowest economic recovery in over a hundred years. It is also an unbalanced recovery with huge areas of the UK and millions of ordinary people yet to feel the benefits, while the gap between rich and poor gets ever wider.

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Labour’s campaign is a mess. So much wrong, so little right

27/02/2015, 09:39:29 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Labour has achieved something remarkable this year. In the space of eight weeks the party has managed to focus the national debate on some of its strongest issues – the NHS, equalities and tax avoidance – and yet still failed to land a blow. The average of this week’s YouGov polls is a very small Conservative lead.

The NHS should be a campaign winner, every time for Labour. But when Andy Burnham decided to use the rise in NHS spending outsourced to the private sector, as his key evidence to prove the Tories’ privatising intent, he turned political gold to base metal.

Given two-thirds of the rise in outsourcing happened under Labour, with the rate of increase actually slowing under the Tories, it doesn’t take David Axelrod to work out why Labour was on the back foot almost immediately.

Then there was Harriet Harman’s pink battlebus. There’s nothing wrong with the bus being pink and the issues raised by the women’s tour are important, but when Labour frontbenchers have been campaigning vociferously that equating the colour pink with girls is sexist then, once again, who couldn’t have predicted disastrous headlines?

Most recently there has been Ed Miliband’s offensive on tax avoidance. It’s difficult to think of territory more uncomfortable for David Cameron. Yet by broadening the Labour attack onto the principle of tax avoidance, rather than the narrow specifics of the jaw-dropping appointment of HSBC’s Stephen Green as a Minister, even when government officials knew all about HSBC’s illicit activities, Ed Miliband blew it.

Cue embarrassing questions about whether shadow ministers collected receipts for every odd job or window cleaned and the circumstances in which Ed Miliband’s mother seems to have avoided tax on the house in which he now lives.

Individually, these incidents seem like discrete gaffes but a common thread runs through each failure.

Andy Burnham, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband all walked into such eminently predictable elephant traps because their moral certitude blinded them to the politically obvious.
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