Johnson out; Balls in….Now we need an alternative economic strategy!
Something of a shocking day then; Alan Johnson resigns as Shadow Chancellor and is replaced by Ed Balls. It’s no surprise that AJ hasn’t lasted as Shadow Chancellor; that was never the plan. He was always a stop-gap which in and of itself in such a sensitive position, where generating a sense of stability is a must, shows how deeply flawed Ed Miliband’s original decision was. I maintain it was motivated by personal concerns for his position and not by an honest assessment of who was best for the job – something that was clearly shown by the fact that Johnson was ‘in the traps and screaming’ from the beginning. Whatever motivated his decision I am sure he will on one level at least be glad to be out of it. He probably should have chosen to depart on competency grounds if he had wanted to keep his personal life out of it and said to hell with the damage this would have done Miliband – it is, after all little more than his selfish decision deserves. It’s to be hoped he is left alone but the manner of his departure makes that outcome highly unlikely.
I hope the stories about the negative briefing by Ed Balls and his team prove to be untrue because if they don’t it could sow some poisonous seeds that may germinate in the future. Nonetheless, they are a distraction from the real politics. My first suggestion to Ed Balls would be to ignore just about everything Ed Miliband has to say when it comes to the economy. The fact he is more likely too is more grist to the mill that the ‘threat’ posed by Balls was the reason he was never appointed in the first place. Watching Johnson and Miliband trying to cobble together something like a coherent economic vision has, for the vast majority of the time, been very painful indeed. In fact, its been like watching two moles desperately attempting to play a convincing game of ‘I Spy’.
I am under no illusions about what Balls is and what Balls isn’t. However, in his Bloomberg speech he showed he at least has a clue about where to start with constructing a truly alternative vision for Labour. If you added into the speech a commitment to nurturing a new, more democratic, economy with a strong commitment to the co-operative and mutual forms of organisation then you have the beginnings of something bold, challenging and that could offer Labour a really strong coherent vision of how we are different from the Conservatives.
None of this would equate to everything I want and feel should happen but it would be the beginnings of something inspired by Labour values and something that could really fundamentally being the ball rolling on lasting change in Britain. I hope Ed Balls sticks with this; I hope he does not let his vision be restricted by our leaders timidity. No matter how he got there he is the right person in the right place. Labour needs him where he is now but after the dust has settled; it needs to take the next step and put forward a truly radical economic alternative.