Peter Hoskin

How to kill, rather than save, a premiership

How to kill, rather than save, a premiership
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There's something grimly hilarious about the frontpage headline of the Sunday Times today: "Gordon Brown wants Ed Balls as Chancellor".  Sure, we've known that for years, but now it sounds as though the Dear Leader may actually be on the verge of making it happen.  The story goes on refer to a "top-level leak" from Downing St, saying that Brown wants the move to be the "centrepiece" of a "sweeping rehsuffle" designed to "restore Labour's political fortunes".

The stupidity of it almost doesn't bear thinking about.  After all, Balls is hardly the most popular figure with either the public or his own colleagues.  Let's not forget that this is the man who devised much of the regulatory and fiscal framework which has dragged the country into economic hell.  This is the man who, since becoming a minister, has been involved in cock-up after cock-up: in my view, both the exam-marking and sixth-form funding fiascos warranted a resignation.  And this is the man whose promotion would threaten to tear Labour apart like no other: Blairites would immediately rail against Balls being made the heir apparent, and then there's the question of what Darling would do were he forcibly removed from the Treasury.  Need I go on?  I'm sure CoffeeHousers can add to the list.

So why is Brown even considering it?  I imagine the idea is to get someone friendly into Number 11, making it easier to rig the Pre-Budget Report and engage in a twin spending 'n' borrowing splurge.  No more words of restraint from Darling.  Just a pure "investment vs cuts" agenda to carry Labour into the next election.  Even putting aside the economic madness of that, it's a highly questionable approach.  After all, the political tides are swirling in the opposite direction, towards an Age of Austerity.  And it assumes that Brown will still be around after the summer...

In the end, if moving Balls to the Treasury is Brown's big idea to save his premiership, then it just shows how bad things really are.