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‘Would you like to replace Ed Balls?’ The question Alistair Darling won’t answer

24 March 2013

Ed Balls is a good street fighter, but not a very loveable one. The polls suggest he is perhaps the least popular figure in frontline politics. His manner too abrasive and his political bloodlust too obvious. As James Forsyth says in this week’s View from 22 Spectator podcast (below), Balls is — at best — Miliband’s 3rd choice for the position of Shadow Chancellor. His first was Alan Johnson and Yvette Cooper (aka Mrs Balls) was asked before it fell to Balls.

A triumphant Alistair Darling, fresh from a 2014 Scottish referendum victory, may well be more palatable to the public. It’s unlikely that Balls would move over for Darling – although he may not have the choice. We know that Darling loathes Balls (which admittedly, in the Shadow Cabinet, is not saying much). But does he actually want the job? He was asked on BBC1 Sunday Politics today. Here’s the transcript:

Andrew Neil: Given the manifest failure of government economic policy so far why does the public still think that Messrs Cameron and Osborne are better at the economy than Messrs Miliband and Balls?

Alistair Darling: Well look, we, if we’re going to win the next election, we have to convince people that we have a credible and compelling alternative to the government. And you know, I know that my colleagues, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls will be setting out our position over the next period because that’s one of the things we have to do if we’re going to win support. Now, it’s inevitable – we lost the election last time, we lost it badly, we have a lot of ground to make up. But I’m quite convinced that provided we can explain to people why it was we got into this difficulty in the first place, and then have a compelling argument as to what we should do, then we can win the day.

AN: Well, Peter Mandelson says that Mr Balls’s criticisms of the government are, quote, ‘predictable,’ and, quote, ‘tiring to the public.’ He says that the argument over how fast the government is cutting is in the past. Is he right?

AD: No, what he was saying was that the argument that was there in 2010, clearly things have moved on, and they’ve moved on unfortunately in a very bad way. Because we are now borrowing more than George Osborne anticipated, 245 billion pounds more than he thought in 2010. Our debt, far from coming down is actually going up…

AN: Well, here’s the big question, Mr Darling, all the polls show that despite the mess the government finds itself in, Labour has an economic credibility issue. Assuming you save the union in the autumn of 2014, are you then prepared to come and save the Labour Party if Mr Miliband asks you to return as Shadow Chancellor.

AD: I have every confidence in Ed Miliband. I know that he is very focused on what needs to be done. For my part, every time I’m asked this question –

AN: It’s Mr Balls I’m really asking about the confidence, Mr Darling.  Would you come down and be Shadow Chancellor in the run-up to the next election?

AD: The only thing I’m concentrating on now is the battle to save – keep Scotland as part of the United Kingdom. That is the thing that I’m concentrating on, and that will occupy me night and day until September.

AN: I understand that, but if you win that will you come and help the battle to give the Labour Party economic credibility? It’s a simple question

AD: I am very confident that my colleagues, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, are very aware of what they have to do and they will do it. Because we owe it to the people that support us and the people we’ve yet to win over to put forward an argument that is going to convince people. Heavens, you know, you rightly said this government is in one terrible mess at the moment as far as the economy is concerned. They’re way off track, none of their plans are stacking up, they’re losing credibility. We need to have a compelling alternative. There is one, and I will be helping my colleagues do that. But at the moment, for the next 18 months, you know where I am.

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So yes, Mr Darling, we know where you are now.  But where do you see yourself in 2015? It’s an intriguingly open question.

PS: For those who missed the podcast – it has Peter Lilley vs George Eustace on press freedom, you can listen below or subscribe free via iTunes here

The View from 22 — 21 March 2013. Length: 34:50

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Show comments
  • Mynydd

    Would you like to replace George Osborne?. Go ahead Mr Nelson just ask the question to John Redwood, or anyother leading right wing conservative for that matter, or is the answer already known, yes.

  • welshdai

    Darling is without the lies of Tony the phony Blair and Gordon the kirkcaldy donkey Brown and far ahead of the stupid looking and sounding Bean and Balls up?
    Bean and Balls up are the modern day Kinnock ahead in the polls until the British public realise the danger?

  • John Glenn

    The question “Will you paint yourself into a corner?” is not going to be answered by Alistair Darling, Boris Johnson or anybody else with half a brain.

  • Daniel Maris

    They’d go up 5 points immediately if they had Darling back as Shadow Chancellor.

  • 2trueblue

    Why would Darling be such an asset? This is the man who rushed off to the EU in Liebores last days to give away £11billion that we could ill afford. It is amazing that no one mentions this act of spite whilst the Coalition was trying to get under way.

    • Russell

      The tories seem totally inept at highlighting much of the damage labour inflicted on the UK, of course the BBC/Sky are not helpful as they are both on an anti tory/coalition trip presently..

      • 2trueblue

        How can they get their message out when the media is so biased? Into every house is fed misinformation form the BBC/SKY?

        Just watched the welshhman ‘interview’ Cooper. He fed her not just the line but the whole paragraph. The whole thing beggars belief.
        The tories do need to tackle this or we are going to get Liebore/LibDum next.

  • The_greyhound

    Replace Balls with what?

    A lifesize Mr Blobby doll – that’ll do nicely.

  • RKing

    The fact that labour supporters still rally around Balls and Milliband demonstates the problem that labour will always have. They simply cannot recognise that they are a couple of losers.
    Carry on chaps the more you support them the less chance that we will ever have labour in power again.

    • Democritus

      And Dave & George are the golden ticket for the Conservatives?

      • RKing

        I think you’ve got bigger problems with the two Ed’s than the tories have with Dave & George. When it comes to the people putting their X on the ballot papers do you realy think that the party that caused the problem will stand the best chance of winning?
        Then I wouldn’t expect you to work that one out as you already have proven that you don’t have the brain capacity.
        You just dream along in your own sweet way and we’ll just humour you and your ilk!!

  • Archimedes

    The advantage to Labour of having Darling is overstated a bit. It’s true that he’s more credible than Balls, but Osborne will still have the incumbency factor. If Osborne sharpens up his presentation a bit, he’d still have the edge over Darling, and even if he doesn’t he’s still capable of delivering a more interesting message than Darling is. The other important thing is that Darling would overshadow Miliband, so it would actually make Labour look a little bit at odds, and weaken Miliband.

    In any case, I doubt Labour are really going to fall for this. Darling as Chancellor would be doing the same thing that was tried in the London Mayoral election, where they put Ken back in the running — only Darling has a lot baggage that could be attributed to him.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Of course he doesn’t want the job. Would anyone? Nobody has the slightest idea what to do except pray.

  • HJ777

    Alistair Darling: “Our debt, far from coming down is actually going up ”

    Osborne’s plans never said or implied that it would be going down at any time during this parliament. Neither did Darling’s. The size of the deficit left by Darling’s government made rising debt througout this parliament all but unavoidable. What Osborne is trying to do is simply to reduce the rate of new borrowing. This was Darling’s intent too.

    • JR

      True on debt vs deficit and the same thing Cameron did. I think there is a valid point here in that the things taking us further into deficit are largely automatic Keynesian stabalisers (tax and to a much smaller extent benefits) and pensioner benefits and payments.

    • Democritus

      The government and George Osborne have categorically stated from 2010 that they are not prepared to borrow more to stimulate the economy (plan A). They obviously prefer to borrow more to not stimulate the economy!

      The reason they are borrowing more than planned is because they have failed to bring down the deficit by as much as they promised in 2010. The deficit should only be 40% now and it’s 67% of the original. The original accusations of cutting too far too fast have been shown to be accurate!

      • Span Ows

        At least you admit the deficit is down. A start.

        • Andy

          Aye, true. But God it’s hardwork.

      • Russell

        The reason they are borrowing more than planned is because growth is lower than predicted and the EU countries are almost all in recession, and we export about 40% of our goods to the EU. The same would have been true with Darlings plan, despite Brillo portraying Darling as some sort of messiah.

      • HJ777

        They’ve hardly cut public spending at all. Most of the deficit reduction has come from tax increases.

    • Vrai Telemachus

      As the man who actually left the deficit he is damaged goods and also seen as one of yesterday’s men
      The charismatic one on the other hand is a breath of fresh air and a whirlwind of energy

      • HJ777

        To be fair to Darling, the main causes of the deficit preceded his chancellorship.

        Who is this ‘charismatic one’ to whom you refer? I don’t find Osborne very charismatic (if that is to whom you refer) but at least he’s better than his deadbeat opponent, Ed Balls – a man with zero credibility and unpleasant character.

    • Mynydd

      “What Osborne is trying to do is simply to reduce the rate of new borrowing” But he has failed in this. Last year he borrowed £120,000,000,000, this year he will borrow £120,000,000,000, next year he will borrow £120,000,000,000. (See OBR report) It is clear that Mr Osborne has not reduced the actual amount or indeed the rate of borrowing. The result being, the National Debt will increase from £800bn in 2010 to £1.4,000,000,000,000 by 2015.
      Before and during the 2010 general election (See TV debates) Mr Cameron/Clegg said, more than once, Labour’s National Debt is a burden which our children and grandchildren will have to pay for in years to come, and solely due to Labour’s mismanagement of the economy. Unfortunately for our children/grandchildren Mr Cameron/Clegg will increse the national debt in 5 years by more than Mr Blair/Brown/Darling did in 15 years. In Mr Cameron/Clegg’s world, where black is white and white is black, the national debt is nolonger a burden, but a necessity and should be welcomed no matter the resultant hardship for generations to come..

  • JR

    I dislike Balls as much as any politician and strategically Darling would be a great bet to widen support and also grasp the Scottish nettle. Balls’ cult at Education was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever witnessed (thankfully at distance on most occasions).

  • Jebediah

    Balls is a liar, he claims he didn’t want the Chancellors job (then Darling’s), nor did he plot against Tony Blair. Not only that he was a principal architect of our economic decline. He’s a bully. The public sees him and realises he’s only interested in power for power’s sake, such naked want is repulsive. The public finds him replusive, Miliband should sack him.

    • Vrai Telemachus

      The party would be poorer without him
      He stimulates debate and is a dynamic innovator
      Why do you think Osborne proposed the loans for new houses if not an inadequate emulation of the build for growth agenda

      • Jebediah

        Sockpuppet. How come you aren’t banned?

        • Democritus

          Perhaps people find Vrai more interesting than the usual Neanderthal posters on here?

          • Jebediah

            I have no problem with ONE telemachus being allowed to post. Wouldn’t you say that was fair Democritus?

          • Colonel Mustard

            Not judging by the down arrows he gets, and even if I agreed with his politics ‘interesting’ is not a word I would use to describe his style or content. Forehead and brick wall come to mind.

  • Vrai Telemachus

    There is a media campaign against Ed Balls
    But they are wrong dead wrong
    Ed Balls is one of the folk in politics that gets the debate going and gets things done
    We will have no lessons from Darling whose behaviour in destabilising Gordon was appalling
    Forget the polls Ed has a credible economic plan that will get us out of the current flatlining
    Summarised as pump priming by build for growth-but properly, not Osborne tinkering with second homes for the rich

    • dalai guevara

      We of course all know that there is a new kid on the block who will outshine either of them.

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