by Stephen Tall on January 20, 2011
The Lib Dem response to Ed Balls’ appointment as Labour’s shadow chancellor, replacing Alan Johnson, has been swift. Stephen Williams, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Treasury Committee, commented:
“I wish Alan Johnson good luck for the future.
“The decision to appoint Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor shows that the Labour Party is now determined to carry on with the Gordon Brown economic plan that caused so much trouble for this country.
“Ed Balls isn’t just a deficit denier, he’s a deficit enthusiast.”
Alan Johnson resigned earlier today, citing “personal reasons to do with my family”. He had been under pressure in the role — most notably for his failure to know the rate of employers National Insurance Contributions — as well as for his policy disagreements with Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Rumours are inevitably circulating about the personal reasons for Mr Johnson’s resignation — a politician with an easy charm, who has risen from difficult beginnings, public life will be the poorer for his absence.
The role of shadow chancellor didn’t seem to sit easily with him. That he had no serious economics background should not have been a major issue — after all, neither did Kenneth Clarke when he was appointed Chancellor under John Major — but his uneasy truce with his leader over a graduate tax (Mr Miliband approves, Mr Johnson does not) pointed to their very different views.
The net effect is to ensure the Labour leadership is now securely in the hands of Gordon Brown’s most dedicated supporters: Ed Balls shadows George Osborne, Yvette Cooper is shadow home secretary, and Douglas Alexander replaces her shadow foreign secretary. Two Blairites — Tessa Jowell as shadow Cabinet Office minister, and Liam “there is no money left” Byrne as shadow work and pensions secretary — are promoted, but overall this is a Continuity Gordon Brown Labour party. That may well suit Ed Miliband.
I suspect it will also quite please both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.