Posts Tagged ‘shadow chancellor’

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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John McDonnell and George Osborne: Two faces of Gordon Brown

19/04/2016, 10:56:55 AM

by Jonathan Todd

John McDonnell is bringing to mind the Gordon Brown of the 1992 parliament, while George Osborne is coming to appear the Brown of the 2005 parliament. Where Brown had neo-endogenous growth theory, McDonnell has an entrepreneurial state; both have public investment at their core. Where the later Brown had 10p tax, Osborne has tax credits; too clever by half missteps by Stalins transfiguring into Mr Beans.

“Business investment is falling,” McDonnell noted in a speech last month. “Exports are falling. The productivity gap between Britain and the rest of the G7 is the widest it has been for a generation. Without productivity growth, we cannot hope, over the long term, to improve living standards for most people.”

It is a powerful critique, grounded not in the overthrow of capitalism but in making it work more efficiently. Notwithstanding their divergent accents, you can close your eyes and imagine Brown, as shadow chancellor, castigating the Major government. Or more recently, Ed Balls attacking the Cameron administration.

The fiscal rule that McDonnell espoused in his speech might be interpreted as a crisper version of that which Balls took Labour into the last election with. The practical consequences of the McDonnell and Balls fiscal rules may be little different but McDonnell more explicitly backs capital spending.

“We believe,” McDonnell declared, “that governments should not need to borrow to fund their day-to-day spending.” This hawkish position on current spending contrasts with a more dovish approach to capital spending. “Alongside this, we recognise the need for investment which raises the growth rate of our economy by increasing productivity as well as stimulating demand in the short term.”


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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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David Miliband must stay on the subs bench.

24/02/2011, 04:15:06 PM

by Kevin Meagher

This morning’s Sun reports that Ed Miliband held “hush hush” talks with his brother David following the resignation of shadow chancellor Alan Johnson last month. The paper reports that:

“…during their clandestine conversation, the possibility of him replacing Mr Johnson was raised”.

Quoting an “insider”, the paper reports that “Ed stopped short of offering his brother the job when David made it clear he wanted to stay on the backbenches”. The party denies an explicit job offer was made to David: “The only person offered it was Ed Balls”, insists a spokesman. This does, however, amount to a non-denial denial of the Sun’s allegation that the idea was floated.

But, as we now know, the post was amply filled by Ed Balls. Common sense prevailed. But it is worth stating why the idea of David Miliband taking on the shadow chancellor’s role is a disastrous, indulgent idea. (more…)

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Johnson to resign tonight as shadow chancellor. Balls to replace him.

20/01/2011, 04:47:45 PM

Uncut has learned, from authoritative sources, that Alan Johnson will resign as shadow chancellor tonight. He will be replaced by Ed Balls.

Johnson, a former trade union leader and home secretary, was neither comfortable nor successful in the role. Dissatisfaction with his performance in the key economic brief had built in recent weeks.

In the end, Johnson has pre-empted any further adverse criticism by tendering his resignation and stepping down from the front bench.

Balls, education secretary in Gordon Brown’s government, was chief economic adviser to the treasury – a post normally held by a top civil servant – during Brown’s years as chancellor.

Pugnacious and relentless, he has taken to opposition better than any other shadow minister.

Miliband declined to appoint Balls shadow chancellor when first constructing his shadow cabinet in the autumn. Balls was neither liked nor trusted by his leader, to whom he was felt to present a threat.

This appointment is believed to signal a new accommodation between the two men.

With Balls shadowing the treasury and the more “user-friendly” Miliband in the top job, Labour is strengthened.

He is likely to be replaced as shadow home secretary by his wife, the shadow foreign secretary, Yvette Cooper. She in turn will need to be replaced in a consequent reshuffle.

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Jonathan Todd on the challenge for the new shadow chancellor

07/09/2010, 11:30:53 AM

The Labour leadership election will, finally, end on 25 September. But the identity of the shadow chancellor will be unknown until 7 October, when the results of the shadow cabinet election are announced. 13 days after this the new leader and shadow chancellor will lead our response to the comprehensive spending review. “It is”, as a leadership contender has said, “an incredibly tight timetable for the new leader and their shadow chancellor to map out a policy that might yet determine how we are viewed for the rest of the parliament.”

The general election too quickly gave way to the leadership election. (Which should have started later and been shorter). With the end of the leadership election, the formal involvement in the shadow cabinet election of four of our would-be leaders begins. This is a grueling pace. But the new leader and shadow chancellor will need immediately to demonstrate economic literacy, which means robustly critiquing George Osborne and articulating a credible and appealing alternative economic approach. While this is challenging, there are some relatively simple points that are worth underlining. (more…)

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