Friday, October 08, 2010

Alan Johnson is neither Ed Balls nor married to him

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Alan Johnson has been made shadow chancellor because:
  1. he is not Ed Balls;
  2. he is not married to Ed Balls.
Still, Ed Miliband's decision to appoint does suggest that he is planning a strategy that goes beyond opposing every Coaltion spending cut. That will help the quality of political debate in Britain and will not do Labour's prospects any harm in the long run.

You can debate whether this shows Ed Miliband is strong - prepared not to give Balls and Cooper what they wants - or weak - unable to trust himself to control economic policy if he gives one of them the post to which they are most suited. I tend to the theory that it means he is weak. I am reminded of the way the England selectors used to leave out good players (John Snow, Phil Edmonds) because they might be disruptive or hard to control.

But today's events do show how odd the Labour party's internal organisation is. You have a leader who was not the preferred choice of most Labour MPs (or most Labour members, come to that) obliged to put together his Shadow cabinet from the names those MPs have come up with. More than that, he is more or less obliged to give senior positions to people who come high in the poll

So Labour ends up with Alan Johnson, a shadow chancellor who knows nothing about economics; Yvette Cooper, a shadow foreign secretary with little experience of foreign affairs; and Ed Balls, who has hitherto shown no interest in home affairs - he promises to be like Charles Clarke but without the charm.

Incidentally, once Ed Miliband had made up his mind to appoint a shadow chancellor who was not Ed Balls or married to him, John Healey might have been a better choice than Alan Johnson. Healey has a little of Vince Cable's lugubrious charm about him.


dreamingspire said...

Perhaps Ed M is trying to be touchy feely. Since the LibCon Coalition took over, I have recoiled from Ed Balls' crude attacks on them, and was scared that giving him the Treasury portfolio would simply turn the floor of the House into a bear pit whenever the economy is discussed. As for Mrs B, she does nothing for me. And of course both live in that cocoon wound round with money and privilege. Alan J has experience of both the real world and management of it - yes, it does sometimes make him seem blinkered, but we can live with that.
The commentators had of course spun their web of hints that not giving B and Mrs B spots such as Treasury would be signs of Ed M's weakness, but they did seem to come down to a binary position: either the Bs both get top spots or they both don't. Anything to do with Home Office is now something of a poisoned chalice, for it seems to be finally getting its come uppance. An alliance of Cabinet Office (Directgov), Dept of Health and outsiders (Business Link and an unknown group referred to as The Club) is trying to push forward much more online delivery of public services - which means a secure online eID method has to be found - but unfortunately they are doing it just for the public sector and not for all services, public or privately provided (USA federal govt is trying to work out a way to do it for all).

Frank Little said...

There is, however, little sign that Mr Johnson believes in endogenous growth theory, beloved of Brown & Balls.

dreamingspire said...

Had to look up EGT, I confess. "the enhancement of a nation's human capital will lead to economic growth" (Investopedia). Same source re neoclassical economics and economic growth: "technological progression and other external factors".
Industry and commerce seems to operate on a mixture: expecting the training of UK people (but it takes a long time), renting people from abroad (available now from outside the EU if they can obtain visas; otherwise we just contract with them where they live). Vastly better communications blurs the distinction. So we need mixed mode politics...

NIcko said...

I don`t really care about the internal affairs of any party.

It does occur to me that Johnson has spent a lot of time lately, in partnership with Tory David Davies, trying to keep down job losses at BAE in Brough. All things being equal, I`d rather have someone as Shadow Chancellor with that sort of experience than the usual crop of Westminster insiders.

Interesting that we hear little from either Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet about the 900 job losses at Boots in Notts, the closure of an Astra Zeneca plant in Leics - with the loss of 1200 jobs - or the redundancies at Toyota (Derbys), all of which have had dramatic effects on the lives of friends and neighbours of mine.

Labour may well be out of touch - that`s why they lost the last election - but maybe they`re not the only ones.