Fraser Nelson

Renaissance Balls

Renaissance Balls
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Balls is back. The author of Gordon Brown's economic policies for 15 years. The man who bears more responsibility for anyone else - other than Brown - for the asset bubble and the consequent crash. But I suspect that, right now, Theresa May is doing cartwheels and George Osborne cursing. Balls, for all his many drawbacks, is the most ferocious attack dog there is. His brilliance (and I hate using that word) at using numbers as weapons far surprassed anything the Tories could manage in Opposition. His policies are reckless: to borrow, and to hell with the consequences. His modus operandi is to launch around-the-clock attacks. He has powerful media contacts, and uses them to full effect. He is the most able fighter in Labour's frontbench, as he proved in the leadership contest. Unloveable, yes, which is why he'd make a bad leader. But if I were Osborne, I know who'd I be praying not to be put up against.

On TV tonight, Balls was grinning like a lottery winner, and immediately attacked the government for inflation - something everyone suffers. Its an obvious attack line, but was not obvious to Milipede and Johnson. Yes, Balls is unloveable. But he's hired as a hit man. His role is to be the vicious villain: the economic equivalent to Jaws in the Bond films. He operates through proxies. And, yes, he predicted a double-dip - but the Tories would be ill-advised to crow. The economic ground is not cleared of landmines (especially with all these wobbling dominoes in Europe) and if something blows up, Balls will say something Osborne never could in opposition: 'I told you so'. So, CoffeeHousers, I know you loathe Balls - but that doesn't make him any less lethal.

As for Alan Johnson - what a farce. Ed Milliband looks like a plank. Choosing a Shadow Chancellor is the most important thing you can do as Opposition Leader. He chose wrong, and everyone thinks so. Even the man he appointed. It won't be long now before Johnson himself does an Estelle Morris and says "I was never up to it". If there was a last straw, I'd say it was the Sky News interview where he didn't know the employers rate for National Insurance. No one thought he'd stay forever. But to leave after just a few weeks? It's amazing - but Johnson is a fairly normal bloke. That's what makes him abnormal for Westminster. He didn't like the job, was visibly failing - why prolong the agony? There are intriguing rumours in Westminster that his resignation was sped along by impending revelations in the press. But I would be shocked, shocked if they were true. After all, that's the Lib Dems' job now.