The news from today’s Labour leadership hustings was Ed Balls saying that he thought the last Labour’s government plan to halve the deficit over the next four years was too ambitious. But the thing that struck me most about today’s event was how the entry of Diane Abbott into the race has changed its dynamic. Her crowd-pleasing answers and her styling of herself as the heart of the Labour party has made it harder for Ed Miliband to make the emotional connection with Labour audiences that was always one of his great strengths.
The candidate, though, who is in real trouble in this race is Andy Burnham. It is hard to see what the point of him is, what he is bringing to the contest. His delivery is the worst of all the candidates by some distances and there was remarkably little substance to his answers.
Ed Balls was far more impressive today than I was expecting. With a supportive audience and no hostile questioning, Balls was confident discussing policy. But as the Daily Politics interview this week showed, Balls is still too poor on television for a major party leader.
This was not a David Miliband crowd, but he did well. The eye-opener to me was how comfortable he was talking about economics. Ed Miliband is moving steadily left. Today, he followed up his commitment to make the 50p tax permanent with one to make the bonus tax a feature of the tax system. He also said that he would keep parts of the banking system under public ownership for the foreseeable future.