Ed Balls is something of a survivor.
For years critics within his own party have been wanting him off the front bench, believing him to be a liability when it comes to Labour trying to get back into office.
The Tories enjoy painting the Shadow Chancellor as one of the men who crashed the car when Britain fell into recession. There was an unfortunate bit of business recently involving an actual minor collision between his car and a parked one, after which he failed to stop and got fined £900, but that’s not what they’re on about.
Essentially, Mr Balls’ critics think he reeks of the failings of the past that saw Gordon Brown eventually turfed out of Number 10.
Yet he seemed quite content out knocking doors in Hednesford this week as Labour mounts its assault on Cannock Chase – one of the key seats it has to win to have any hope of a majority next year.
He’s wound up some within his party for ruling out the idea of tax rises to help fund the NHS. And he’s dangled the prospect of Labour looking for some sort of exit from HS2 if the estimated costs increase again.
Meanwhile he’s also prepared to admit his party’s failings on immigration and acknowledges the need to tighten up on free movement within the European Union, particularly the ability to work in Britain then send tax credits to family in another country.
This sort of talk, which should appeal to the centre ground and to those who are not natural Labour voters, does not sound like someone who is considered by some to be some sort of electoral Jonah aboard the party ship.
UKIP is taking votes off Labour as well as the Tories so Labour needs to be able to offer some reassurance that with Mr Balls in Number 11 and Ed Miliband in Number 10 there won’t be a sudden tax raid on the ‘squeezed middle’.
Ed Balls’ line of attack has been knocked back a lot by figures that show the economy is growing again. He is now positioning himself as asking the question ‘whose recovery is it anyway’ by flagging up wages and the cost of living.
Whether voters are prepared to accept a key Brown ally at the Treasury again next year remains to be seen. But he’s at least acknowledged that Labour can’t win as a party of tax and spend.
If it follows that route, it won’t matter who sits next to Ed Miliband. They’ll be saying it from opposition again.
What do you think? Is Ed Balls an asset or a hindrance for the Labour party? Leave your comments below.
Labour needs to talk to the Tories
Still on the subject of Ed Balls’ visit to Staffordshire, his brief spot of door knocking resulted in some very pleasant exchanges with some devoted Labour supporters.
Encouraging as I’m sure it was for the Shadow Chancellor, I couldn’t help but think he might have done better to talk to a few people who voted Tory in 2010. After all, in Cannock Chase there were plenty of them because it produced the biggest swing in the country to the Conservatives. They might have been able to explain what it was they disliked so much about Gordon Brown and Labour back then and say whether or not enough has been done to tempt them back.
Instead, one woman told Mr Balls: “I’ll vote for anyone as long as they’re Labour.”
Hearts and minds are not won by preaching to the converted.