Sorry, that’s the best I could do for a song title, without descending into Great Balls of Fire territory – and for all those coming up with oh-so amusing puns on a balls-related theme during the leadership campaign, I can tell you, the campaign team has got there first. It’s very distracting when we’re trying to come up with a slogan; people won’t stop being silly. Not to mention the debate amongst supporters as to whether #labourneedsballs is an appropriate hashtag. I like it rather more than I probably should.
Anyway – on a more serious note. Why am I backing Ed Balls?
In choosing who to nominate for the leadership, I was looking for the following:
• an analysis of where Labour is now, what had gone wrong, what had gone right during our 13 years in Government, why we’d lost support, and what needed to be done to win back that support;
• an ability to talk about this in terms of people and policies, not abstract notions of ‘the new politics’ or ‘a progressive vision’- and definitely an ability to do it without using words like paradigm (Neal Lawson take note);
• in particular, an understanding of the sort of issues that came up time and time again on the doorstep in east Bristol, best summed up in Ed’s recent interview in the Guardian - and a natural understanding, from having had many, many conversations with voters, about ‘bread and butter’ issues;
• someone who would give those ‘bread and butter’ issues as much priority, if not more so, than the issues beloved of the liberal press, the think-tanks and the blogs (e.g. constitutional reform, structures, notions of ‘how we do’ government);
• someone I felt had really fought our corner during the election campaign, had been willing to take the blows, to raise his head above the parapet, not keep his head down – and who had the strength of character to be a robust, leader during what could be five years for Labour in Opposition;
• someone with intellectual ability, and a grasp of policy across not just their own brief, but across the spectrum, and of course, someone whose views chimed pretty closely with my own on a range of ‘benchmark’ issues;
• someone with a track record of achievement and driving through change in Government (as Sunny Hundal notes on Liberal Conspiracy), who would make a decisive and purposeful Labour Prime Minister, leading the country back in the direction I want it to go;
• and finally, to be frank, someone I could take into the St George Labour club!
And that’s Ed.
I know all the potential candidates, I like and respect them as Labour colleagues. But I find that Ed is not only the easiest to communicate with, he is the one who most ‘gets it’, as Ellie Gellard puts in an excellent piece for the Guardian.
Ellie also deals with the fact that Ed is vilified in some sections of the right-wing press; in my opinion, that’s a badge of honour. He’s got the battle scars but that’s because he fought in the war.
I’m glad there’s going to be a long contest, with the new leader not being chosen till late September. It will give everyone a chance to get to know the candidates: who they are, what they stand for, and whether they can lead Labour to victory at the next election. Ed may not be at the head of the field at the moment, but I’m confident that the more people get to see of him, the more they’ll like what they see.
P.S. I spoke to Ed earlier and he was cooking Sunday lunch – Yvette has got him well-trained!