Peter Hoskin

The Balls dilemma

The Balls dilemma
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How could I have forgotten to mention this in my last post? In that YouGov poll on the Labour leadership race, Ed Balls finished in a resounding last place. Yep, the former Schools Secretary is stuck on 11 percent of first preference votes – behind both Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham, who are tied on 12 percent, as well as both Miliband brothers of course. And the news has got Jim Pickard and Mehdi Hasan wondering: just what will Balls do next? Has he given up on winning? Will he drop out of the race and concentrate on becoming shadow chancellor? I know plenty of Tories who wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry if that turned out to be the case.

But the leading article in this week's edition of the magazine sets out just why Tories should still be worried about Balls. Sure, he's sinking fast in the leadership contest, but, with his attacks on Michael Gove, he's probably had the biggest national impact of any of the candidates so far. If he can take this strident brand of politics all the way to the shadow chancellorship, then there's the chance that he could be a powerful and dangerous force in British politics for years to come. As the leader puts it:

"Ed Balls, easily the most ruthless member of the Labour front bench, and Gove’s nemesis, is ideally placed to continue to exploit [any] weakness. This is why he is likely to play a powerful role in the next Labour opposition, no matter who is the leader. Both Miliband brothers struggle to project purpose or direction, and Balls has plenty of both. His direction is the wrong one, and his purpose is the acquisition of power for power’s sake. But he is likely to remain a formidable figure in British politics — and a force with which David Cameron and his advisers had best learn to reckon."