Be my ‘ed

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!

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  • TORY TROLL  On May 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm


  • Stewart Owadally  On May 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I agree that we can’t get caught up in the “new politics” rhetoric. Ed Miliband’s talk of idealism is all well and good but is, I think, a relative luxury to the people who make up what should be our core areas of support. Ed Balls and Andy Burnham are more solidly talking about policy and policy areas and I think that is as important as reconnecting with our idealism. However, this is a very long campaign so I’m in no doubt that the Milibands’ rhetoric will morph into talk about more clear policy directions.

    I commented on Ellie’s post before that the great thing about this leadership campaign is that in Balls, Burnham and the Milibands, we have 4 leaders who I’m sure the vast majority of us would be more than happy with. And if they conduct this debate in the manner in which they have started it, this whole thing could be of huge benefit to the party in the medium and long term.

  • kerrymccarthy  On May 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Comment no. 1 is in response to my tweet plugging this post “Tory trolls need not bother commenting”. Obviously there are some cases in which I would make an exception!

  • Josh Worrad  On May 23, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I agree with a lot of what you write about Ed Balls however I cannot be moved from the point that he has a marginal seat.
    This works in his favour in that it has contributed hugely to his understanding of what our relationship currently is with the electorate. It could also be argued this election result will be seen as a low water mark for the Labour party in terms of Morley however that does not mitigate the risk we could face the morning after a General Election with a leader who is no longer an MP. This is a massive disadvantage in a leadership election which will probably be the most competitive since 1979

  • Millsy  On May 23, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    But isn’t it a fact that Balls was Brown’s loyal lieutenant for 16 years. The electorate get rid of Brown only to be presented with his poor imitation? I’m not sure the Labour selectorate will buy it, never mind the British people.

  • Julian Ware-Lane  On May 24, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    I am keeping an open mind on all candidates at the moment, although Mr Balls is in front for me. However, I hope that all six candidates get onto the ballot paper as I think the debate will be healthy for the party. News that David Miliband is hoovering up far more than he needs is disconcerting.


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