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Why I’m supporting Ed Balls for Leader

Oops, how did his picture get in there?

This is a post about why I’m supporting Ed Balls for Labour leader. 

Well mostly.

It’s also a post about why my ‘Why I’m supporting Ed Balls for Labour leader’ post didn’t get posted at Ed Balls’ Ed Balls for Labour leader website, despite it being specifically requested by the Ed Balls for Labour leader website team, when they saw on twitter that I had gone to my CLP meeting on behalf of the Ed Balls for Labour leader campaign.

The official reason given for the non-posting of what I sent them, and which I now reproduce here, is that it had been ‘manic’, and that there wasn’t time.

Believe that if you will.  I am inclined to believe that my post was not put up because it failed to fawn over Ed Balls enough, and argued the case for Ed Balls as Labour leader on the basis that he’d be, erm, the best Labour leader of the shorlisted candidates.

Personally, I think it’s a shame that Ed Balls, like all those other candidates, should have chosen to make up his campaign team with people who are desperate to fawn over him, and shelter him from criticism, however well-meaning. 

But, heh, maybe I’m just an idealist, who thinks senior politicians should really engage with grassroots members when they’ve said in their campaign literature that they’re really keen to engage with grassroots members. 

That is, I hasten to add, not just a problem with Ed Balls’ campaign.

Overall, despite the fact that his campaign is as disappointing as all the others’ in respect of openness to ordinary members’ views and contributions, I continue to think Ed Balls would be the best opposition leader (note, Tom Harris the smartarse, how I choose my words carefully). 

I also think Ed Balls is unlikely to win, and my support is also geared to encouraging him as best I can to develop a model of political economy which induces more likely winners to think this aspect of their campaign through, as well as encouraging more open debate about economic alternatives if, as I hope as a second best, Ed Balls becomes Shadow Chancellor.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote for Ed Balls’ site.  His webteam have said they’ll link to it when I post it.   Yeah, right………………

Why I’m supporting Ed Balls for leader

I’m one of the awkward squad. Determinedly leftwing, suspicious of all leader types, difficult to please, I know what I want from the Labour party, and I want it yesterday.

So why am I here on Ed Balls site, talking up a bloke from who was at the heart of New Labour experiment in neoliberalism, kowtowing to the City, ignoring the needs of the working class, stripping its party bare?

Well, I’m here because I know a battler when I see one.  I’m a battler too, and I respect battlers, even the ones I don’t agree with. Except Tories.

Just like I’ll never forget the look on my local Tories’ faces when I took their safest West Lancashire seat off them, I know Ed Balls will never forget looking Gove in the eye and making him quiver. Ed Balls clearly loathes Tories as much as I do.

So I’m backing Ed Balls now because he’s the best candidate for the job in hand at the moment.

That job is not being Prime Minister; it’s being leader of Her Majesty’s utterly bolshie opposition. 

If Ed Balls proves later on he’s up to the PM job, then that’s fine, but it’s not the job he’s applying for now

The election may be five years away. I don’t want a leader who’s very good at pulling things together to win a distant election, but rubbish at working with the wider labour movement to resist what the Tories and their mates have in hand for us right now.

Five years is a long time, and we need a leader of the party who’ll lead the fight.  Choosing one who doesn’t fight, who doesn’t help co-ordinate the resistance, would be a betrayal of the people we’re supposed to represent.

The gainsayers tell me that Ed Balls has only looked like a ‘fighter’ because he’s had the Academies Bill and BSF to get his teeth into. 

I don’t buy that. 

Yes, the opportunities have been there for him to show his mettle, but he’s shown it. His rivals have simply not done as well on the Tories’ outrageous health plans, foreign policy gaffes, or wider plans for economic vandalism.

Ed Balls has also shown the best understanding of where we should be on the deficit.  He knows his stuff about how cutting spending now will take demand out of the economy at the worst possible time, and he’s prepared to stick it to the Tories straight on this. 

He knows, I think, that we have to make it clear where we stand on cuts, and that half-baked approaches which accept the cuts are necessary at all doesn’t make us ‘credible’; they make us look like would-be Tories who aren’t quite up to the job of being Tories.

Frankly, he’s got some way to go to clarify his vision of political economy, but he’s further ahead than the rest.

Finally, Ed Balls has committed himself to a proper review of party and labour movement democracy, and to listening to lowly comrades like me.  While the details of his thinking are yet to emerge, this commitment to a root and branch review goes much further than some of the tokenism or patronizing sentiment offered up by his rivals. Again, he’s got a distance to go, but he’s going in the right direction.

I’m a hard man to please, and Ed Balls has got a way to go still before his redemption from the sins of his association with some of the worst of New Labour is gained. 

 But I believe in second chances, and Ed Balls has earned it.

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  1. stopjump
    July 27, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I work for Ed’s campaign… and I’m totally there with you all the way. (to be fair I have absolutely nothing to do with the blog though!) He will be a brilliant leader of the opposition though :)

  2. Simon
    July 27, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    I’ve come to similar conclusions. Now only if we could win him over to Local Authority run schools.

  3. July 27, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    So this is what you call fighting for socialism within the Labour Party – backing Ed Balls? If he’s the best they have to offer, I think I’m better off out.

  4. July 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    I think I’ve come round to your way of thinking Paul.

    Salman, the key to the next five years is fighting tory cuts, not fighting for socialism within the labour party. Socialism will come form a successful fightback, and Ed B has the best chance of providing that.

  5. July 28, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Salman – there’s no point pretending any of the candidates for leader are better than they are. Abbott’s campaign has been awful and she doesn’t deserve our support just because she’s occasionally willing to say something left-wing-sounding on Trident. On the economy Balls has been more left-wing than she has, and demonstrated more depth of understanding.

    Of course, Balls isn’t the best Labour have to offer – the best Labour have to offer didn’t get on the ballot paper. But regardless, the reasons for being in the Labour Party don’t change depending on who the leader is.

  6. Gigolo Joe
    July 28, 2010 at 1:22 am

    So you no longer support one of the only world leaders who gives a damn about the poor and the working class, one who is actually practicing South American socialism. As opposed to our own experience of nulabour businessmen weaseling some form of vaguely left sounding rhetoric just to squeeze some favour out of Britain’s pathetic, gullible, amnesiac reformist-left… And you have the temerity to support Ed Balls??????

    I dare say you’ll want to take this back at some point. After all, this is the same Ed Balls who, after his zealously nulabour march through the moral swamp of the last government and failing at any point to advance or benefit our society, launched his own bid for leadership.

    And what searingly pertinent issue did he use to set out his stall? The most important thing he took away from his experience at the heart of government throughout the financial meltdown? – Immigration.

    His sinister Hypnotic glare has obviously worked on you, so to paraphrase your earlier post – this is why I stopped reading your blog.

    • July 28, 2010 at 4:33 pm

      Socialism is not catchall term, and I am not a socialist because it designates rebellion, I take it fucking seriously, and that means fighting the rightwing as well as shooting your heroes, the only way to achieve good is by holding people to account.

      Like Paul, I’m going to be supporting someone in the Labour party for leader of the opposition so they can be good at just that – leader of the opposition. I’m not voting for who I think will be good at this because they share my principles, but because they will put up a good fight against the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

      I don’t like Ed Balls as a politician, though I respect him for the reasons as outlined by Paul, and I know Paul thinks deeply about these things, so Joe if you have something critical to offer do so, but I haven’t seen anything you’ve commented so far as worth my time.

      • Gigolo Joe
        July 29, 2010 at 1:58 am

        I appreciate that you are dedicated to fighting the cancer of the right, but you must recognise that we’ve been afflicted with right-wing government for over 30 years straight. I was ready to give Labour another shot at reforming itself but the internal contradictions and apparatus of the party has shown itself incapable of producing a leadership that serves its members interests.

        For further inspiration I’ll direct you to my earlier reply to Paul below..

  7. July 28, 2010 at 5:46 am

    @LeftOutside – if the experience of the Thatcher years is anything to go by, the best and most successful campaigns against cuts will be fought inspite of and not by Labour. In fact, as with the poll tax etc, the Labour Party heirarchy will do their level best to sabotage such campaigns.

    Ed Balls will have his role to play in that, so I wouldn’t rely on him. Even Kinnock managed to say a few nice sounding things about fighting cuts – but it didn’t change the fact that his Labour Party deliberately tried to but the brake on any movement that was felt to damage ‘electability’.

  8. paulinlancs
    July 28, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Salman @3: You’ve not engaged with the post, so there’s not much I can respond on. I’m grateful to LO and Tim for having a go.

    Gigolo @6: the piece on chavez was by another writer. TCF is a mult–author blog.

    As with Salman above, you’ve not really engaged with what the post is trying to do.

    There are five candidates. One will be leader, not of a party in government, but of an opposition. I would prefer someone who didn’t make that shortlist to be leader, hence his picture, but I can’t. I want the leader to be the one who can get best drawn into a battle against the cuts, though like Dave @7 I acknowledge that Labour as a national party (local parties may be different) can only really play a supporting role in that (I have blogged about this at length in my series on resistance). Your ‘sinister hypnotic’ glare stuff is just silly.

    Will Ed Balls measure up to these requirments? I don’t know, but by setting them out in the context of possible support from the left for his leadership bid, in preference to a Diane Abbott who has shown no desire to engage properly with such issue, there is a slight chance he may start to commit himself in this direction. You can be sure that his team have read this blog.

    Yes, he did speak totally inappropriately about immigration at the start of his campaign. During the course of it he appears to be revising his views, and in general his views on what it means to be Labour and left have been more acceptable than many had thought they would be. He shows signs of being a learner, even though he will never accept publicly that he’s on a learning curve (it would be better for his campaign if he did).

    • Gigolo Joe
      July 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm

      Yes I am aware that this is a multi-author blog and that each author will have differing opinions to what the others post, but you’ll notice that I’ve given pretty clear objections to both viewpoints which do appear within the same blog and share the same political space, in that they are right-wing positions contradicting reason and sense.

      Your threadbare reasons for supporting Ed Balls do not change the fact that the man is a cynical nulabour opportunist who shouldn’t be allowed near a microphone, let alone have anyone on the left entertain him. If you’d rather have John McDonnell in the race you’re showing a remarkable lack of conviction in stumping for one of the least principled of the remaining contenders. Anyone seeing themselves on the left would vehemently oppose this contest on the grounds of rigged nominations but if one were forced, and you eliminate all of nulabour from the contest you’re left with Dianne Abbott. Not a fan, but she is the most principled in that she could have toed the nulabour line but didn’t.

      Ed Balls???? To illustrate what I meant by amnesiac, your argument is the same as those who backed Blair all those years, he kept the Tories out. Never mind that he was as bad if not worse!

      Surely it is time to recognise that nulabour is not just dead, but its grave is being squatted on by the ConDem coalition. Their government is but a sick reminder of the past 13, or even 30 years. We the Left must finally break this Thatcherite cycle. The Election defeat was the ideal opportunity for Labour to reassert its founding values. This rigged game-show contest has shown it will never be able to represent the Working Class.

  9. Agog
    July 28, 2010 at 9:33 am

    The electorate did not like Gordon Brown, for whatever reason. In my experience, people associate Ed Balls with Brown, but they like him even less. True, he could be very successful in opposition, and is showing signs of fulfilling that potential. But only if he continues to focus his energy on opposing the coalition and not other factions within Labour. I worry about that.

    True also, he is probably the strongest of the candidates economically, and will be able to score a lot of points. However I simply do not believe, judging by his record, that he ‘gets it.’ The day he performs a U-turn and states that Bank of England independence was a bad idea will be the day I will give him my support as leader (or potential leader).

  10. Michael Taylor
    July 28, 2010 at 9:52 am

    So basically you like him because he’s a hater, and you think that spreading hatred in politics is a good thing. And you wonder why your party will never be in power again.

  11. paulinlancs
    July 28, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Agog @10: Blimey, someone who disagreed with me but actually engages with the contest of the post. How refreshing, thanks. Yes, I’m worried that his energies get diverted, but my supporting his bid earlier rather than later (and acknowledging it may end up with him being Shadow chancellor or another shadow big hitter) is an attempt, in my own small way, to encourage him to stick with the attacks on the Coalition he’s been developing and not get side-tracked.

    I agree completely on BoE and am adding that into his 10 point plan I’m working up for him, having appointed myself his campaign manager.

    Michael @10: Well, personally I find it pretty hateful of the Coalition to be deliberately screwing the poorest and most vulnerable under the pretext of an entirely false narrative about ‘Labour’s debt crisis’. There’s hate, and there’s hate, and the Coalition have the worst type in spades.

    Oh, I also understand the boundaries of poltical discourse. Try http://www.bickerstafferecord.org.uk/?p=1741

  12. Matty
    July 28, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Paul, have you actually attended any of the hustings?

  13. July 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    I have and Ed Balls was actually Ok in terms of presentation. The benchmark is, however, pretty low.
    Actually, I think he is going to come last as he has no union backing and only 14 CLPs nominating him . In a way, he doesn’t deserve that as have others have said he is at least knowledgeable on the economy and has put up a real fight – unlike Diane Abbott who has fought a truly dreadful campaign and was also abysmal at the hustings I went to. For reasons to do with keeping the preceived left candidate with a decent vote she gets first pref.
    My second preference will go to Ed Miliband – because he has a chance of beating the other Miliband. Most people I know are either sad ( because the best candidate didn’t get on the ballot paper) or half-hearted( because none of the five are at all impressive, really) But I see no point in backing Ed Balls – he will probably be Shadow Chancellor……but at this stage he’s a busted flush

  14. July 28, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    John : As you are one of the 72 published supporters of the following initiative to get the cadidates to issue Manifestos, could you ask Ed Balls if he will do this – we are making progress with all the candidates on this expect the two Eds.
    http://dronfieldblather.blogspot.com/2010/06/calling-those-with-voting-rights-in.html

  15. Ed
    July 29, 2010 at 2:02 am

    There are only two candidates in this election – Diane Abbott and the amorphous entity known as “the other three”. You can guess who my money’s on.

  16. paulinlancs
    July 29, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Gigolo Joe:

    Not much point going to much further here as we”re starting to talk past each other, but a couple of final points from me.

    1) I simply don’t see any evidence that, at this point in time (and that’s an important clause for reasons I’ve set out) that Ed Balls is the ‘least principled’ of the three. Look at David Miliband with the ‘community organiser’ thing he doesn’t really understand but head Purnell mention once and can pour Lord Sainsbury’s cash into as an adjunct to his campaign. I asked for some training in my neck of the woods for a group of my comrades but was told it wasn’t possible, but one of the first steps on the line for them was Oxford Uni Labour Club (nothing personal against them). Look at Andy Burnham with his nebulous ‘aspirational socialism’, never unpacked beyond the soundbite. Look at Ed Miliband with his commitment to graduate tax, unable or unwlling to respond on why this is better than general taxation. And look at Diane Abbott, keen to people shes’ not interested in taking the party to the left’ but in responding to members. I’m interested in potential of the candidates and their ability to ‘action-learn’ not in their track record per se.

    2) On Diane Abbott per se, I simply don’t accept she’s the best of what’s left. What his her vote against the war cost her, when she was already condemned to backbench life for ever? I’m not saying she didn’t follow her conscience, but it also helped her develop her ‘maverick’ identity, carefully polished on the BBC sofas rather than grassroots organisation. She’s a media luvvie and while she had the same opportunity fo ‘redemption’ as the others, she hasn’t showed. Her views on party democracy boil down to the fact that she’s a good listener and ‘understands the grassroots’. I’m afraid that’s not good enough.

    I knew I’d get flak for this stance, but actually there are quite a few lefties who appear to be backing it as the most realistic option for the left, not on the basis of what went before, but on where we are now.

    3) Susan, I get your point about Ed M and he’s likely to be my 2nd pref for that reason. On Diane abbott see above – I simply don’t think she deserves to be ‘perceived’ as the left candidate after her direct disavowal of that moniker in favour of herself as the ‘different’ one. Yes, I think an ed Balls win is unlikely unless he makes clear he’s in it for the opposition, not to be PM (see my OP) but even so it’s worth ensuring he makes a decent show in the vote so that he’s get in as chancellor, where he’s stronger than the rest at rebutting the debt myth.

    4) Ed @18: See my views on Diane above. I’d prefer not to have them, believe me. If she was a slightly worse John McDonnell, she’d have my vote, but not only did she shaft him after promises made, she’s also not in his league, or even the same sport.

    • Gigolo Joe
      July 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm

      Ok look. I’ll try and be brief.

      You may have, by convoluted means, found a way of painting a pretty picture of Ed Balls, but you haven’t changed the fact that he has a record in government as one of Brown’s closest allies, is in no way Left-wing, in every way an opportunist who represents everything that is wrong with Labour today. If you want to know what to expect, trying to outflank the tories from the right on immigration tells you everything you need to know.

      Dianne Abbott. She may not be the most canny politician, but she is Left-wing. In Hackney where I live, she does a good job of supporting initiatives such as cheap housing in one of the poorest parts of the country.

      She may not win the next election, but she would be the only choice if you want anything to change within Labour. The leadership, the culture, the politics of the party, this should be the battleground of the next 5 years.

      If you want to see any progress in parliament and you support Balls, you’ll get shafted.

  17. Matty
    July 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

    “not only did she shaft him after promises made” What nonsense. Your views on Ed Balls are respectable but this is desperate. What promises? By the way, Diane was the only one of the contenders to nominate John McDonnell in 2007. Diane Abbott has been a Campaign Group MP for over 20 years and you have the nerve to imply that she only voted against the Iraq war because she was doomed to be a backbencher. How does that explain her behaviour when on the Treasury Select Committee in the 90′s? The whips eventually had her thrown off the committee as she was often critical of the leadership line eg criticising the independence given to the Bank of England.

    • July 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      I don’t want to get into slagging off Diane Abbott for her past – there’s not a lot of point, hers is the most left-wing anyway, and any of the candidates can be slagged off for their past – it’s the present that’s important. But she wasn’t the most helpful of backers in 2007 – I won’t go any further than that but just ask anyone who was involved with McDonnell’s campaign. That could easily be forgiven if she’d backed McDonnell this time, and failure to back McDonnell this time could easily have been forgiven if she’d ran a left campaign herself.

  1. September 1, 2010 at 10:11 am
  2. September 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

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