Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ed Balls as chancellor is the way forward for Labour

In a major shadow cabinet reshuffling, the Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, has appointed Ed Balls as the new shadow chancellor of the exchequer, after the resignation of the original chancellor, Alan Johnson. What is more, Yvette Cooper has taken over as shadow home secretary and Danny Alexander as shadow foreign secretary. 

This, I believe, is a defining moment in Labour politics and, moreover, a wonderful turn of events for the party. 

Alan Johnson, though an articulate and likeable character, was never the right man for the job. He joked back when he was first given the position of chancellor that he would have to read an economics primer in order to familiarise himself with the subject. Well, I use the word "joked" loosely; I have a sneaking suspicion that Economics for Dummies may have been Johnson's bedtime reading for quite some time. The fact is that Johnson was not a strong enough voice; he simply wasn't fit for the role he was given, regardless of Ed Miliband's assertions otherwise. 

I was very disheartened when Alan Johnson was first appointed as I, and many others, saw it as shallow pandering on Miliband's behalf to the right-wing media and to the Blairites in the Labour Party. Johnson did not oppose the Coalition's cuts powerfully enough, in fact, he seemed to agree with them and felt that it was the right course of action, but that the ConDems were going "too far, too fast". This softly, softly approach pleased the likes of the Daily Fail and the Torygraph and also the right-wing of the party. It did not please those on the left. 

However, with Johnson's resignation over "family issues", comes Ed Balls appointment. 

Ed Balls was, all along, the person who should have been made shadow chancellor. He is an eloquent, approachable figure, a politician with conviction and presence. What is more, he is an economic expert and there will be no place for a beginner's primer on his bedside table. Balls is, undoubtedly, on the left of the Labour party and has forcefully opposed the Tories' economic plan - stating that he also disagreed with Alistair Darling's course of action to try and  halve the deficit over four years. Ed Balls believes that deficit reduction must be a much, much slower process, and that the real emphasis should be on growth, job creation, and the expansion and development of the public sector. He's a radical figure, there's no denying it. That is probably why Miliband did not originally appoint him. After all, the right-wing media complained that his becoming Leader was thanks only to the unions and, just minutes after the announcement, the term "Red Ed" had already entered the political vernacular. 

But the past is the past, and we now must look to the future. Soon, the full effects of the Coalition's Comprehensive Spending Review will be felt across the country. The Conservatives are using the current economic climate to establish these cuts and reforms as the government of 1914 used World War I to pass the Defence of the Realm Act. They are dismantling our state, damaging our public services, privatising our NHS and attacking the most vulnerable in society. And they must be stopped. Labour, with the departure of Johnson, now has someone in place not to afraid to speak their mind, someone who will demolish George Osborne and his political agenda and someone who can offer a genuine, intelligent and better econmic alternative. This is a fantastic opportunity to mobilise and establish a credible left-wing opposition, at last. Now, with Ed Balls as shadow chancellor, Labour can re-establish itself as an electable party - something it must do in the coming months, for the sake of the country. 

1 comment:

Linda Medrano said...

Sam! I see you are still fighting the good fight! I trust you are well and keeping warm enough. I miss you!