Brown's ally Ed Balls sets sights on safe seat for next election

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Indy Politics

They are already known as the "golden couple'' in Westminster. Last night, Ed Balls, the Chancellor's chief economics adviser, was due to tick off one of his main ambitions by being selected for a safe Labour seat in Yorkshire, meaning he can be an MP neighbour of his his wife, Yvette Cooper, a minister in the Cabinet Office.

They are already known as the "golden couple'' in Westminster. Last night, Ed Balls, the Chancellor's chief economics adviser, was due to tick off one of his main ambitions by being selected for a safe Labour seat in Yorkshire, meaning he can be an MP neighbour of his his wife, Yvette Cooper, a minister in the Cabinet Office.

Mr Balls was the outright favourite for the seat of Normanton, conveniently placed for weekends away from Westminster with his wife, who is the MP for the nearby seat of Pontefract.

They are certain to be tipped for rapid advancement if Gordon Brown becomes the next Prime Minister. However, some MPs took a sceptical view about Mr Balls' move last night. "Why on earth does he want to give up the power he has to become an MP?" moaned one leading Labour backbencher.

Mr Balls played a main role at the Treasury in advising Mr Brown to make the Bank of England independent within weeks of Labour taking office. He was also an important player in the decision to put off Britain's entry to the euro.

Mr Balls, 37, educated at Oxford and Harvard, was also responsible for one of Mr Brown's most obscure phrases - "neo-classical endogenous growth theory". That was ridiculed by Michael Heseltine, the former Tory deputy prime minister, as "not Brown - it's Balls".

It did not take any of the shine off Mr Balls, regarded as one of the brightest young assets for Mr Brown's ambitions to become Prime Minister.

He has been carefully nurturing the Normanton seat for months once it became known that the sitting Labour MP, Bill O'Brien was going to retire. Meanwhile, Ms Cooper, 35, will go on maternity leave today from the office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

A former journalist for The Independent and economics commentator, Ms Cooper secured the safe seat of Pontefract and Castleford by defeating in the selection process Derek Scott, Tony Blair's economics adviser and a former SDP candidate. Mr Scott infuriated Mr Brown at the weekend when it emerged he was writing a "tell-all'' book about tensions between Mr Blair and Mr Brown.

Ms Cooper was described as one of the "Blair Babes'' after the 1997 general election because of her passionate belief in the Blairite modernising agenda. However, the couple suspected she had been held back by the Blairites because of her close association with Mr Brown through her husband.

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