James Forsyth

Ed Balls and the art of opposition

Ed Balls and the art of opposition
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There’s been a lot said about Ed Balls’ Observer piece on immigration. But the most striking thing about it to my mind is that it shows that Balls has made the transition to an opposition mindset.  

Take his proposal that ‘Europe's leaders need to revisit the Free Movement Directive’. This is classic opposition politics; suggest something that sounds good but it practically impossible. The other EU member states are unlikely to agree to agree to renegotiating this directive. But the Tories can hardly point this out; emphasising the UK government’s impotence when it comes to changing the rules of the game would hardly go down well with the Tory base. So Balls gets to make the weather on this point.

Balls is nowhere near a good enough media performer to worry the Coalition. He is also too divisive a figure within his own party to lead effectively. But his intervention this weekend shows that he understands how to do opposition politics.