A few months ago at the start of the contest, I spoke a little about the candidates in the Labour leadership contest. The ballot papers have now come out and voting is underway. As I said in May, we have some excellent candidates, almost any one of which would make a great leader, but I have chosen Ed Balls as my preferred candidate for a number of reasons.
If there is one issue which will dominate this parliament, the local and national elections and even the next general election, it will be the economy. It is vital for Labour that we do not repeat the mistakes of 2010, and put forward a viable alternative to the Tory government’s plans. We will need a leader with the vision and experience to challenge them on their plans. A leader who can be effective at the dispatch box, as well as being able to articulate our vision to the wider public. But we also need someone who has strong roots in the Union and Co-Operative movements, in order to galvanise support across society for the change we want to make. We need a leader who can inspire loyalty and get the best work out of his team. After looking at all the candidates, I believe that leader is Ed Balls.
Ed has been criticised for being too close to Gordon Brown, but I believe this is actually one of his biggest strengths. He joined Gordon’s team in 1994, and was instrumental in some of the big economic decisions which characterised our first two terms in Government. The policy of giving the Bank of England its independence to set interest rates is still lauded as an imaginative and bold step which helped the country achieve the longest continuous period of growth since the war. The decision to stay out of the Euro has now been vindicated several times over, and will be again as we will need the ability to devalue our currency to help grow our way out of recession. Despite what you may read in Tony Blair’s memoirs, Ed Balls was the driving force between both these pillars of our economic policy in the last decade. During the campaign, he has set out further bold and imaginative policies which will show the wider electorate that there is an alternative to the cut and burn ideological agenda of the coalition. He has shown that cutting the deficit over a longer period of time will help growth, provide jobs and put our economy back on track, as well as solving other social issues such as the lack of affordable Housing. His command of the economic arguments is second to none.
This summer, the coalition government has had things pretty much its own way. A media which has been pliant, if not supportive, combined with an opposition which has been looking inward has meant that they have been able to drive the agenda onto their own territory. There has been one exception to this, and one of their ablest ministers has been made to look foolish and incompetent. That minister is Michael Gove, and the Labour shadow responsible for this is Ed Balls. One the flagship policies this government has which isn’t driven by cuts, is its ideas for ‘free’ schools and academies, and one of the ministers who has been described, even by his opponents as a possible future leader. That these policies have been made to look poorly thought out, and this minister to be inept has been done to the activities of Ed Balls. Every meeting of these two at the dispatch box is now eagerly anticipated, and I understand that Gove now avoids meetings in the TV studio. Now imagine what he could to do to David Cameron.
One thing which many in the Labour party would agree on is that during the last 13 years the party lost its connection to its roots, it forgot some of its values. Our next leader needs to be able to restore those links, to be able to focus the three pillars of the Labour movement – the Labour Party, the Trade Unions and the Co-Operative movement in fighting for the things which we all share. Our next leader doesn’t just need to be able to talk about the importance of the unions, or the work that co-ops do, he needs to be able to demonstrate real achievements in both these areas, and to fully understand how together we can defeat this government and restore the Labour Party to power. With his implantation of the Living wage in his department and his work establishing Co-op Trust schools, show that Ed Balls really does get both of these vital areas, and doesn’t just pay lip service to them. He’s also the first Labour Co-op MP to stand for Labour leader, and will use his work with the co-op movement to invigorate our policy debates. Labour under Ed will be the true progressive coalition.
Something which has impressed me about Ed is his capacity to inspire loyalty. Every MP who worked under him at the Department for Children, Schools and Families is supporting his campaign. His team has run an effective campaign, despite not having the resources of some candidates, or the legions of volunteers of others, and the only way this can work is for every member to pull their weight and work together. That Ed, often portrayed as a divisive figure, can achieve this in the space of a few weeks speaks volumes. One thing that Labour needs to do, and do quickly is to pull together and work as a team as quickly as possible in order to return the party to power as quickly as possible. Ed’s work during his battle for the leadership has shown he can do this.
Ed Balls has impressed the most during the last few months, and strikes me as being the man to lead Labour back into Government. That’s why I’m voting for him.