Thursday, January 20, 2011

The departure of Alan Johnson and the dangers of Ed Balls

The announcement of Alan Johnson's resignation came just as I was leaving work. Guido Fawkes suggests there will be a scandal in the Sunday papers and implicates Ed Balls in its leaking. (Later: Tomorrow's Daily Mail suggests a different story is behind his resignation.)

Whatever the truth of that, Johnson never looked comfortable as shadow chancellor. His appointment has to count as a bad error by Ed Miliband, ranking alongside his naming of Phil Woolas as shadow immigration minister - though at least the latter showed a wicked sense of humour.

When Ed Balls was passed over as shadow chancellor I suggested that it was a sign of weakness rather than strength on Ed Miliband's part:
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.
Well, Miliband has his star fast bowler now.

Will Balls strengthen the Labour team? He certainly knows his economics, but he is heavily implicated in the failures of the Brown years. More importantly, his instinct will be to return to a Brownite "Labour investment vs Tory cuts" attack.

If Ed Miliband does not try to rein him in then, however popular this approach is in the short term, Labour will lack credibility as an alternative government come the next election. If Miliband does try to rein him in, there will be fireworks.

If there is scandal brewing over Alan Johnson then he might have been doomed whatever job he was given. But he is a likeable politician and would have been an asset to the shadow cabinet in an elder statesman role - something like shadow foreign secretary or shadow leader of the House. I am sorry to see him go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lest we forget, Alan Johnson is not just a likeable ex-postie but also the Home Secretary who deported a torture victim to the country that tortured him - AFTER campaigning as a backbench MP for him to be allowed to stay in the UK:

See Duncan Stott on this:

And the Private Eye:

There's nothing likeable about that.