Peter Hoskin

When did Brown give up on the idea of Chancellor Balls?

Proverbial tumbleweeds are blowing through Westminster at the moment, as everyone waits for the European election results tonight.  We’ll have full coverage on Coffee House later, of course.  But, if you’re stuck for something to read in the meantime, I’d recommend Andrew Rawnsley’s piece in the Observer.  Rawnsley sets out a host of reasons why the Cabinet are wary of moving against Brown, but it’s this snippet about the reshuffle which jumped out at me:

“Early on Thursday evening, Mr Brown attempted to bully Mr Darling into leaving the Treasury. Then and again on Friday morning, Alistair Darling pushed back and the prime minister was finally forced to abandon the idea of installing Ed Balls at Number 11.”

The implication seems to be that Brown was still pushing to have Balls installed as Chancellor on Friday morning.  Given how a promotion for Balls could have sparked a Cabinet revolt, this was clumsy politics even before James Purnell’s resignation on Thursday evening.  But trying to push it through after is just deeply, deeply stupid.  In the end, one of the grand ironies of the reshuffle is that Darling, by fighting against Brown, actually saved the PM from himself.

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