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Daily View: Ed Balls replaces Alan Johnson as shadow chancellor

Clare Spencer | 08:34 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

Alan Johnson and Ed Balls

 

Commentators discuss the departure of Alan Johnson as shadow chancellor and his replacement, Ed Balls.

In the Wall Street Journal Iain Martin says goodbye to the man he says could have been prime minister:

"[O]ne of the most extraordinary aspects of Johnson's story is that he is one of the very few people to be presented with the stick-on opportunity to become prime minister who decided that he didn't want it. British politics is chock-full of MPs in both major parties who want that job, but circumstances, mistakes, misfortune and sometimes downright muppetry, mean they never even get close to a hint of a chance.
 
"In contrast, it was Alan Johnson's for the taking. What a thought for a top politician to carry around in his head."

Fraser Nelson says in the Spectator that politicians should ignore new shadow chancellor Ed Balls at their peril:

"Balls, for all his many drawbacks, is the most ferocious attack dog there is. His brilliance (and I hate using that word) at using numbers as weapons far surpassed anything the Tories could manage in Opposition. His policies are reckless: to borrow, and to hell with the consequences. His modus operandi is to launch around-the-clock attacks. He has powerful media contacts, and uses them to full effect. He is the most able fighter in Labour's frontbench, as he proved in the leadership contest. Unloveable, yes, which is why he'd make a bad leader. But if I were Osborne, I know who'd I be praying not to be put up against."

Aditya Chakrabortty says in the Guardian that now Labour can put up a fight against George Osborne:

"Miliband and Johnson often struggled to come up with answers, or even to agree with each other on such crucial issues as whether to continue with the 50p tax on the super-rich or how to fund university education. The result is that for three months Westminster has too often resembled a boxing match with only one fighter in the ring - the red corner has been all but deserted.
 
"That is likely to change now Balls has taken up the job that he has been pining after since September. A brilliant and creative economist, he also has clear ideas about what a Labour chancellor should do: they are set out forcefully in the speech he gave at Bloomberg during the party's leadership campaign."

Chief of Staff to George Osborne during his time as shadow chancellor and now Conservative MP, Matthew Hancock argues in Conservative Home that Ed Balls was the architect of Britain's economic problems:

"Ed Balls wrote the fiscal rules that brought Britain to the brink of bankruptcy. He was at the Treasury when they loaded PFI off balance sheet, and took a strong position of falling debt in 1997, built up the biggest deficit in the G7 before the crisis, and left Britain with the worst deficit in our peacetime history.
 
"Second, he wrote the banking regulations that so spectacularly failed. He took away from the Bank of England the power to regulate the banks. Then at the height of the boom he was the City Minister who encouraged the banks to keep on borrowing."

In the Financial Times Patrick Diamond gives his suggestions for Ed Balls' policies:

"Over the past decade Labour acquired a reputation as an ardent spender and redistributor of wealth, but had too little to say about how wealth itself ought to be created. Mr Balls has an opportunity to address this with a new agenda focused on public support for private investment in infrastructure - notably energy and transport, and the digital sector. Labour can also make the case for rebalancing the economy away from financial services and towards high-value industries and services. New measures to stimulate small and medium-sized business development, including tax breaks in return for investment in physical and human capital, should be part of this."

Links in full
Iain Martin | Wall Street Journal | Alan Johnson: The Man Who Could Have Been Prime Minister
Fraser Nelson | Spectator | Renaissance Balls
Aditya Chakrabortty | Guardian | With Ed Balls, Labour can now take the fight to George Osborne
Matthew Hancock | Conservative Home | Ed Balls was the architect of Britain's economic problems
Patrick Diamond | Financial Times | The two Eds must avoid replaying history

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