Labour reshuffle: Ed Miliband unveils Continuity Gordon Brown Party

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.

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  • Blah blah blah, does any actually care; the last line of this blog was particularly sickening, liberal democrats and the conservastives !

    Let’s face it up to it, the LP has a new leader and they will probably have a different approach to economy under Milliband; Brown and Blair are gone, lets move on; the Tory party are now damaging the economy further with our help but I suppose it’s all about deflection.

  • TheContinentalOp 20th Jan '11 - 9:21pm

    Ah Stephen Williams, the students’ friend. The man who blasted Labour and the Tories for planning to destroy our univesities by hiding behind the Brown Review. Now there is a man of integrity, a man to be taken seriously.

    I’d imagine his response was so “swift” because it’s virtually a word for word liftt of comments made earlier by Conservative deputy chairman Michael Fallon. In these times of cuts I don’t know why you don’t just realise the one statement. It’s not as if you’ve got your own identity these days.

  • “I suspect it will also quite please both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.”

    I doubt it very much. Ed Balls will show up the inept Chancellor that we have and the PoliticsHome’s poll show that apart from the Labour Leader, Ed Balls is the Labour politician most feared by both parties of the Coalition.

  • I has beem reported on telly that Johnson’s marriage is in trouble and that’s why he’s gone.

    It therefore doesn’t surprise me that his mind may not have been fully on the rate of Employer NI contribution and I wonder if Osborne had been ‘ambushed’ on the matter whether he would have had the fact at his fingertips.

    However, that’s as may be – one thing that is certain about Balls is that he has a giant set and Osborne will be trembling in his shoes at the prospect of Ball’s economics knowledge. The LibDems don’t have anyone of the same calibre so they’ve no need to shake other than as usual doing their nodding head routine as they gaze adoringly at their leader Cameron as he launches yet another savage cut on another group of disadvantaged,

    Certainly got his fingers burnt over his tacky vote gathering on disability – what does he do – blame the council – it’s up to them Guv – nothing to do with the government cutting council allocations – they should still keep the front-line services in place – it’s not our fault.

    When the NHS collapses about our ears it will be the GP’s fault – yea the mob that couldn’t even administer flu jabs. Still the LibDems will still be there nodding away or is that a nervous tic that’s developing.

    Noticed an interesting item on how the LibDems go about politics.

  • That may well suit Ed Miliband.

    I suspect it will also quite please both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.
    Fantastic. All three parties coming together as one on an issue. It almost brings a tear to my eye to see such consensual attitudes from out senior politicians.

    Personally I didn’t think as much of Ed Balls as some of the other Labour Leadership candidates, and certainly compared to Johnson he comes off as more of a tosser, but that need not hold him back – plenty of those in all parties – and the role he has to play in order to help his party win is far easier than the opposite, so as long as he doesn’t do something incredibly stupid – and I assume he is at least mildly competent given his experience – he can rest easy.
    they will probably have a different approach to economy under Milliband;
    I’ll hold off on my support then, on this and other issues, until we can remove the ‘probably’ bit. Labour never let Cameron get away with opposing them without rejoinding about how he had no detailed ideas of his own to fix things , and the same has to apply now: I disliked the tuition fees debacle, but certainly at the time Labour had not yet formulate detailed proposals of their own to show their vague ideas were actually better. If I am angry at the government, I don’t want to accidentally and in protest vote for a party whose ideas might turn out to be worse because they hadn’t formulated them. I hope Ed and his team can do so soon so one can weight these things up properly.
    the last line of this blog was particularly sickening, liberal democrats and the conservastives !
    …I don’t get it. I mean, I get the objections to working with the Tories some people gave ideologically, or against the LDs participation in this coalition government and their actions therein, but the actual sentence you quote? Not getting the sickening part.

  • TheContinentalOp 20th Jan '11 - 9:44pm

    It’s obvious Cameroon has let the dogs off the leash. The Government strategy on this one is obvious from the off but when their cuts start to really bite – while bankers keep pocketing their million pound bonues – tedious ‘old politics’ tags such as ‘deficeit denier’ will not have much impact with the public.

    I find Balls to be a tedious tribalist. But he’s a formidable and robust political opponent. Given the many of the Government’s front bench look scarily out of their depth – including Clegg & Alexander – it is no wonder they’ve come out fighting.

  • TheContinentalOp 20th Jan '11 - 10:43pm

    Pardon me for not taking you opinion on people’s judgement too seriously Dan – or should that be Mr O’Grady?

  • @Kieran

    word at Westminster is that Balls think’s you’re a fine fella as well 🙂

  • @Kieran

    word at Westminster is that Balls think’s you’re a fine fella as well 🙂
    Fair enough. He may well be a pleasant and conciliatory man in truth for all I know. And I do mean to stress that I am not opposed to a tosser, if my impression is correct, forming policy – they might be the best person for the job!

  • @Dan Falchikov

    No different then from Cable revealing all to a couple of allegedly pretty and young female DT reporters.

    I hope Johnson sorts his personal life out whatever has caused the problem and we should all remember that gloating over the personal misfortune of others most definitely comes before a fall and so it should.

    Whatever Johnson did I doubt if he will have been buying presents for an emotionally disturbed female constituent like another MP that springs to mind.

  • @Kieran

    Well Clegg and Danny Alexander think that Osborne’s wonderful so perhaps you have a point.

  • Philip Rolle 21st Jan '11 - 1:17am

    You have to feel sorry for AJ. I hope he is able to sort out his family problems.

  • Ed The Snapper 21st Jan '11 - 7:19am

    This blog keeps referring to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair as if the public have some kind of massive hostility to those two politicians. The trouble is that amongst the voters I mix with, I hear very little hosility to Brown and Blair. I hear very little blame against them for the current economic problems. I hear no praise fro Clegg, Cameron and Osborne. If the ConDems are relying on hostility to Brown and Blair to get their coalition re-elected in 5 years time then they are barking up the wrong tree. Brown and Blair are long gone anyway.

  • EcoJon – you are normally very fair and balanced in your criticisms of us LibDems and I find your comments useful, but your equanimity seems to have deserted you with your implication that we are ‘gloating’ over Alan Johnson’s fate and your snide comment about another MP (who I presume is a LibDem, though I don’t actually want to know what you are referring to). Unless Alan Johnson’s departure has a political component from his time as Home Secretary I don’t think any of us have anything but sympathy for him.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Jan '11 - 9:18am

    Mr Williams’ attack on Mr Balls is mean-minded, this sort of thing will do our party no good, it just plays up to the image of us as having been completely absorbed into the Tories. It’s political “yah-booh” at its worst. Our country is in a serious state, so we need serious discussion on things like how fast to cut the deficit, where there are of course arguments on both sides, and the side we are on now and Mr Williams’ comments confirm that, is not where we were when we fought the general election. So to bring it down to personalities like this, and to deny the serious contribution which Mr Balls is capable of making (and Mr Johnson was not, by his own admission) is the sort of playground politics many people supported our party to get away from.

    What is this “Brown economic plan” to which Mr Williams refers? It is the same economic plan to which all UK governments have been committed since 1979, and it is the one that has brought this country to its present sorry state. Too much belief in the weasel words of those who run the finance industry, turning over too much control of our economy to them, placing our country at the point where it is at their mercy, because they, not the government, hold the strings. As we have seen, they promised us this was “creating wealth”, but much of it was semi-Ponzi stuff, based on the idea that rising house prices were real “wealth generation”. That is why I came down so hard on “EcoJon” recently, because his comments on these lines and failure to see the point I was making about the “housing ladder” said it all. The point about Ponzi schemes is that it leads people to think they’re making money, and to an extent it works because thinking this way does encourage them to be optimistic and economically active in other ways. However, the big beneficiaries of Ponzi schemes are those who are in on them and know what it is about at the start – hence the bankers’ bonuses. As the “wealth generation” from Ponzi schemes becomes more intense, people become obsessed with it, they shut off other economic activity to get more involved in it, this swirling round of money becomes all people do. All that is left apart from the Ponzi schemes is people doing the servant jobs to those who think they are making money from them. Those who knew what they were doing at the start have made plans for the inevitable crunch, salted away their Ponzi earnings on land (not mortgaged, unlike the and owned by the little people, of course), and with the bolt-hole (tax havens) nicely prepared. “So long, and thanks for all the cash”, only it’s also “and here’s what you still owe us, please agree a payment plan”.

    I didn’t see any criticism of the economy using these lines from the Tories throughout the time of the Blair/Brown governments. Vince Cable was the one who came closest to the “emperor has no clothes” cry i.e. “Isn’t it obvious we’ve all been fooled and the clever of us amongst us knows it but is too scared to say?”. Perhaps the most striking way this can be shown is the case of Ireland, which did much the same only in a faster and more extreme way than the UK did. As the current chancellor said about Ireland in 2006 “it stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking”.

    If there is a valid criticism of the Brown economic plan that could be possible from the current government without being completely hypocritical, it would be for its fondness for big-project schemes sold to it by snake-oil salesmen. This gave us badly thought-out IT projects and new building in the public sector. Much of it was pretty obviously designed to look good to the naive. Its commission involved nice fat payments to consultants, and long-term tying us up in the strings of the private sector money racket through PFI and the like. Oh, so even here we can’t be Tories and go too far down this route, because all this shelling out of money as justified as being good because it brought in this magic fairy dust called “private sector know-how” which could be scattered over everything to make it work better – Labour took this up because they were desperately trying to look good in the eyes of the Tory press and even believed it.

    The classic example of how this private sector know-how has served us is Heathrow Airport grinding to a halt because there was no snow-clearing equipment – which could have been there paid for by just the money paid as salaries above a civil servant’s pay to a few of its top executives.

    The Tories’ snake oil is “competition driving up quality”. There are all sorts of reasons why this doesn’t work nearly as well and nearly so often as they believe. As a start, we can contemplate the succession of scandals in the financial services industry – people sold poor pension plans, poor mortgage plans, poor insurance plans – in all these cases competition, far from driving up quality, drove it down. I myself remember the time when people were being persuaded by salesmen to drop the public sector pension schemes which the government and the rich are now telling us are too good for us so they have to be got rid of, and take up instead poorer quality private pension plans.

    I would hope Mr Williams and our party’s people involved in finance matters in the Commons could get their head round all these things and from that give us some grown-up political analysis and ways forward which meet the Liberal Democrat aim of ending “enslavement by poverty, ignorance and conformity”, rather than indulging in yah-booh-sicks politics. We may come to see that the Tories offer just more and in a more extreme form of the economic policies of past government that got us into this mess in the first place. We may need to work constructively with people like Balls to get us out of where we are.

  • @tonyhill

    Tony – The comment I made was in anger in reaction to a comment made by a LibDem poster – which appears to have been subsequently removed although I have a copy of the original posting – which basically stated that Johnson was going because a Sunday Paper would be running a story about him having an extra-marital affair with a younger female.

    That is why I reacted as I did because I knew it was untrue. It is now publicly clear where the problem lay and if Johnson has any blame to carry it’s that, like many dedicated politicians, he has probably neglected his home life in his fight to make life better for the poorer and weaker sections of society.

    So my later comment was ‘snide’ and I accept that it was – but it was on the basis that a grossly libelous untrue statement had been made without a shred of evidence for it, just to make political capital. I have no doubt that all decent LibDem members would abhor the statement made by one of their own – the end did not justify the means in this case.

  • @Matthew Huntbach who said: ‘That is why I came down so hard on “EcoJon” recently, because his comments on these lines and failure to see the point I was making about the “housing ladder”

    Well Mathew, all I can say is if that was you coming down hard perhaps you should move north of the Border and see what coming down hard in politics really means.

    However, I will take your comment as a grudging apology because you used another thread – and now this one – to take my narrow personal comment about the housing ladder, which had no political connotation, and twist it to supporting your personal views on its use as a much wider socio-economic mechanism. I don’t disagree with your wider argument but it was not relevant to the point I was making as any objective person I’m sure woyld readily admit.

    You also made a series of very damaging personal accusations against me which were totally unwarranted and without a shred of evidence. I know you have a lot of experience as a London Councillor but I have a lot of political experience as well and I never indulge in mud-slinging unless I have the facts and a pile of stinking dung to fling.

    It’s obvious you hold very strong views and so do I but I don’t actually think there’s a great deal of difference between us politically even though you label me a Thatcherite. Indeed, I have never voted for or supported the Tory party at any time in my long life and am also not in Government with them nor ever have been.

    So perhaps the epithet if ‘Thatcherite’ might be more aptly applied to the LibDem MPS who support Thatcher-style policies in government and their pro-Tory LibDem camp-followers.

    These however, in the main, are issues for the LibDem Party to deal with, while a party still exists.

  • @EcoJon – the poster was also quoting from rumours which appeared on Guido Fawkes’ site, which probably just goes to show how much of a pinch of salt it should have been taken….

    @EdtheSnapper – if you’ve never heard criticism of Gordon Brown & Tony Blair, then I assume you only move in Labour circles (and pretty tight ones even within that.) Having knocked on doors and spoken to people in almost all elections since 1997, I can say that criticism of both has been pretty stinging – and that includes in Gordon Brown’s own constituency, where he’s generally popular.

    Ed Balls, along with Ed Miliband, was cruical in setting up the financial structures in the UK during 1997 – 2000 which directly permitted the causes of the 2007-8 banking crisis. Indeed, Balls himself designed the “tripartite” structure between the Treasury, the Bank of England and the FSA which failed, and set up within the FSA a structure whereby the supervision of banks’ credit sheets were potentially done by individuals with no experience or knowledge of investment banking. The supposed independence of the tripartite structure allows Balls & Miliband to adopt a “it wisnae me” approach to the crisis, but the fact is that the flaws in the structure they created were to blame.

  • @Stephen W

    I can only assume that you have never known the utter desolation that follows when a loved one dies or a marriage fails and I most certainly wasn’t on top of my job after it happened to me. Luckily I had a great boss who forced me to stop working and go on extended leave abroad to work on an intern-basis for three months just to give me a total break from everything that reinforced and triggered my bittersweet painful memories.

    The role he arranged was pretty demanding and intense but it was different and I often wonder whether I would have got through my deep depression if I had just kept working round the clock at home as a defence mechanism to stop me dwelling on my loss or whether I would have had a mental breakdown.

    In the great scheme of things that are important, the question asked of Johnson ranks with the ‘trick’ question asked of prospective councillor candidates when they were asked how much the penny rate would generate.

    What is important is the policy argument about whether it is better to raise money through NI Contributions – either employer or employee side – and say increasing VAT. That is what a Chancellor is there to actually do – that’s why he has a full team to deal with detail and your stance on this issue reveals a certain ignorance of the actual reality.

    However, my point was that even if Johnson actually was aware of the rate or not then I wasn’t surprised he fluffed the answer because of the turmoil in his private life and I find it rather sad that you demonstrate such a lack of humanity that you feel unable to concede this even slightly.

  • My apologies EcoJon – the post to which you referred had obviously been removed by the time I came to read the thread.

  • Allen Taylor-Hoad 21st Jan '11 - 3:12pm

    I seem to recall that Clegg didn’t know how much the state retirement pension was when asked. He made a guess of £30 a week.

  • @Tony Hill

    No probs Tony and I have calmed enough to say sorry for my ‘snide’ comment at a third party who wasn’t actually involved in the objectionable posting. I was trying to make the point that if it’s good for one then ot’s good for another and my judgement was obviously clouded by red mist – at least be thankful for small mercies that it wasn’t blue mist 🙂

  • Patrick Smith 21st Jan '11 - 7:59pm

    The decision by Alan Johnson to leave the Shadow Exchequor role is a loss to all members of the so called political class across the divide,who believe in the rise of an `ordinary bloke’.He rose from a working class character building to hold Cabinet Office, with equanimity but retained a genial charm and humour and a sense of the real world.

    Alan Johnson was able to communicate to the larger mass of the electorate as an `ordinary bloke’ and the Tories have now lost their equivalent in Andy Coulson an Essex born communicator with the tabloids.

    One of the best things that Nick Clegg ever said was that L/D `s must take and see people for who they are and where they are in life and this also resonates as a profound vision.

    I have great respect for our own L/D litany of `real world’ MPs who are able now to brook new policy statements in bite size chunks and plain words.The intent listeners and masters of this rare art I would count our gifted and talented Simon Hughes in his new role and media appearances on `Questiontime last night and now also David Ward in Bradford East and in Redcar.

    Many policitians across the spectrum often forget that the vast majority of the electorate do not have political acumen for Newsnight appraisals on a weekly baisis and it is in the more simplistic and easy humoured style aka Alan Johnson that gains media respect and gets the message across..

    Ed Balls was joined at the hip with Brown and has the same precedessor pro-Keynsian volcanic tantrums and tempers, according to Andrew Rawnsley`s account in his book `The End of the Party’-The Rise and Fall of New Labour. At least now there will be a starker choice in debate with Balls..

  • @Patrick Smith who said: ‘Ed Balls was joined at the hip with Brown and has the same precedessor pro-Keynsian volcanic tantrums and tempers . . . .’.

    Liked your piece and would agree with a lot but I actually thought, as I was reading it, that you were going to end with Vince Cable’s name 🙂

    I would also take issue with your comparison with Coulson and Johnson and would caution that you should await events on this matter and I don’t mean with regard to Johnson.

  • Stephen. I’ll place a small wager with you that within 12 months you will regret writing this article.

    The Gordon Brown continuity Party? Please – is that the best you can do? The electorate cares little for such tribalism – as Lib Dems have tried to argue for years, but have now given up on as they seek to justify this unholy Coalition. You also fail to recognise that with the kindest words I can use – both Gideon + Alexander are pretty much despised by the population. Gideon for one is fully aware of his hate status – hence why he remains invisible 95% of the time. Balls popularity against Gideon? Pretty similar I’d say.

    Gideon will be sleeping uneasily from now on. Balls is the most effective attack weapon in Westminster today – on any side of the House. He destroyed Gove’s reputation within weeks and has already embarrassed the Home Sec in his short time shadowing the Home Office. He is an unlikeable little tribalist but that matters little in this role. His job is to repeat what he has done previously. Little by little, bit by bit, pick the Minister to pieces.

    One of Balls’ tactics is to make his targets visible. Gideon’s tactic has been to hide behind Alexander, masking his own dislike and distrust amongst the electorate. Within months there will be emergency questions raised, holes in budgets found, searching questions asked and inconsistencies identified. Balls is the Shadow Chancellor Miliband should have appointed – not Johnson.

    Balls and his wife have something that neither Gideon or Danny Alexander have. True economic knowledge.

    The Coalition have but one strategy. Massive and unpopular cuts; praying the private sector can employ the millions the Government make unemployed; hoping that they can get exports up. If in 6 months Growth is continuing to fall – being a former member of Gordon Brown’s team will be completely forgotten.

  • Hi Mark. Betting man? Only if you count putting 50p on wagers

    I remember how, in between also receiving plenty of personal abuse on LDV don’t forget, I predicted elements of what is indeed happening – that Growth would slow, inflation would rise and unemployment would reach long-forgotten levels. If David Laws is allowed to claim it is impossible to predict the economy just before predicting what he thinks will happen to the economy and be praised on LDV, I’m sure my previous predictions aren’t all that far away from what’s happening.

    Maybe we should both take a wager with Norman Lamb? “This Government has fixed the economy”? I’d put a tenner against that being the case… What would you say Mark? The economy has a cruel way of proving people wrong Norman – see a certain Hon. G Brown.

  • And – this explains my thoughts on Balls’ appoint ment more eloquently than I could ever express.

  • Mark – if only we all had the ability to turn people’s predictions back on themselves, eh?

    Of course, if LDV cared less for predictions that turn out to be inaccurate and more for promises that were broken – perhaps you wouldn’t feel the need to be so tribal?

  • Ed The Snapper 22nd Jan '11 - 9:51pm

    @KL – “if you’ve never heard criticism of Gordon Brown & Tony Blair, then I assume you only move in Labour circles (and pretty tight ones even within that.) Having knocked on doors and spoken to people in almost all elections since 1997, I can say that criticism of both has been pretty stinging – and that includes in Gordon Brown’s own constituency, where he’s generally popular.”
    Well you make a an incorrect assumption. For most of 1997 to 2005, I lived in the traditionally Tory suburb of St Alphege, Solihull. I was surprised to find out that many of my neighbours supported Tony Blair. That is why he got elected in 1997: Blair harnessed the support of the aspiring middle-classes. Nowadays, the people I mix with are either country-sports enthusiasts (who dislike the New Labour stance on country-sports but voice little criticism of their economic policies) or poorly paid workers/unemployed people in the Birmingham suburbs who do not seem to blame Blair/Brown for the current economic problems. It seems obvious to most people I talk to that the basic economic policies of both New Labour and the Tories have followed the same post-Thatcher consensus on such as issues privatisation and reliance on service-industries rather than manufacturing. The idea that a Tory government would have avoided the recession and deficit does not seem credible. Only Vince Cable ever seemed to call these Thatcherite policies into question during the Blair/Brown years. If the ConDem government are relying on some kind of widespread antipathy to Blair/Brown to help them win back millions of voters in 2015 then I am convinced they are misguided. Blair and Brown will be a vague memory for most voters by 2015.

  • Mark Pack

    Cuse: You say your previous predictions weren’t all that far away from what happened, but they were. During the third quarter of last year you said (more than once) that the economy would end up having shrunk or, at best, been static in that quarter.

    Mark. Today it was announced that in Q4 the economy shrunk by 0.5%.

    So I was out by one quarter. But unfortunately dead right.

    Feeling quite so confident still are you? Granted – there was bad weather. But a 0.5% decrease is terrifying.

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