Balls has re-invented himself as a traditional Labour politician, casting himself as the champion of the working class. He says, accurately, that the poor are the victims of crime and the victims of unbridled immigration and social dislocation and his opposition will be ardently authoritarian. May will have to cut police numbers: Balls will attack her. Ken Clarke’s prison reforms might lead to a rise in crime: Balls will blame May for cutting police numbers. Unemployment will rise as public sector cuts are implemented, May will struggle to impose the unworkable immigration cap: Balls will talk disingenuously of limiting low-skilled migration from the EU, quibbling about British jobs for British workers. May will repeal Labour’s ASBOs, CCTV and ID cards: Balls will express his disgust at her contempt for the public safety.
May will also be under attack from Yvette Cooper, who is shadowing May’s Equality and women’s brief. As John McTernan observes, ‘the battle for the next few years is to secure women voters’. Cooper’s approach to women and equality will probably differ from Harriet Harman’s in respect: she will make it an economic issue, redefining fairness in terms of cuts and their effect on mothers. Cooper will dredge up anomalies and tragic sob-stories and blame the government for cutting without compassion, deepening gender inequality and penalising mothers – the child benefit row is far from over. It remains to be seen whether Theresa May can withstand Labour’s most belligerent attack dogs, especially as the ground is in their favour.