UK Politics

Ed Balls says Labour split would be 'disastrous'

Ed Balls Image copyright PA

It would be "disastrous" for the Labour Party to split if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as leader, former Labour shadow chancellor Ed Balls has said.

Mr Balls, who was unseated at the 2015 general election, said MPs unhappy with the leadership should stay and fight for the party.

Labour had a responsibility to be an effective opposition, he told the BBC.

Owen Smith is challenging Mr Corbyn for the leadership, with the outcome of the election due on 24 September.

The contest was triggered after dozens of Mr Corbyn's frontbench team - including Mr Smith, the then work and pensions spokesman - quit in protest at his leadership.

Amid reports that some Labour MPs may consider forcing a split, or a breakaway group, if Mr Corbyn wins again, Mr Balls warned against the idea.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "You've got to stay and prove that you can make the change and I think at the moment people would think it was crazy for people to walk away from Labour's history, its values and its traditions.

"I say stay in and continue to fight, to make the Labour Party the voice of our working people in our country. I don't think that can be done from the extremes."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn (l) is fighting a leadership challenge from Owen Smith (r)

Mr Balls has been critical of Mr Corbyn's leadership of the party, writing in his autobiography, Speaking Out, that his approach was a "leftist utopian fantasy" and "devoid of connection to the reality of people's lives".

But he told Today there could be a snap general election in months and added: "At the moment, to walk away from our responsibility as MPs and as a party to be an effective opposition when we've got such big decisions to make on Europe... would be a terrible thing to do."

New challenges

Speaking about Labour's 2015 general election defeat, which was the party's worst result in decades, Mr Balls told Today it was "nonsense" that the party lost because "we weren't left wing enough".

He also said then leader Ed Miliband only called him twice during the entire election period.

"I'd have preferred it if it was more, I'd have rather been on the inside on that strategy... In the year of Brown and Blair, even when their relationship became difficult, when it came to elections everyone came together," he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ed Balls said he was looking forward to the challenge of Strictly Come Dancing

Looking ahead to his appearance in the forthcoming BBC series Strictly Come Dancing, the former politician admitted he was having a mid-life crisis, but he said he was "embracing it".

Mr Balls said he was taking on new challenges, but that after 20 years spent in politics he did miss it.

Mr Balls lost his seat of Morley and Outwood to Conservative Andrea Jenkyns in the 2015 vote.

Related Topics

More on this story