Family tensions set to continue as Mr and Mrs Balls vie for jobs

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Indy Politics

The scramble for a place in Ed Miliband's shadow Cabinet officially began yesterday, bringing with it the prospect of another tense family contest at the top of the Labour Party.

Both Ed Balls, who came third in the party's leadership contest, and his wife, Yvette Cooper, are all but certain to win a place in Mr Miliband's shadow Cabinet, with both seen as prime candidates to take the post of Shadow Chancellor.

Labour's 257 MPs have been deluged by emails and letters from more than 40 of their colleagues hoping to be elected to one of 19 shadow Cabinet posts, leading to complaints from some concerning the amount of paperwork clogging up their inboxes.

Most pitches have been brief and apologetic pleas for support. Other notes have been more attention-grabbing. Maria Eagle, the MP for Garston and Halewood, sent round a note depicting a giant eagle attacking Nick Clegg and David Cameron.

Mr Balls confirmed he would be running for the Shadow Cabinet yesterday, while Ms Cooper sent out a plea for support last week. Allies of Mr Balls had already begun lobbying for their favoured candidate last night, arguing that his combative style was ideally suited to taking on George Osborne and the coalition over huge budget cuts.

While Labour MPs speculated that Ms Cooper would not stand in the way of her husband if he wanted the position, many believe she would also be a good choice for the job as a more likeable figure. She has also been tipped to top the ballot.

John Robertson, a Glasgow MP who served as Ms Cooper's ministerial aide, backed her in an email sent to his parliamentary colleagues last week. "When I watched her at the despatch box last week standing in for Alistair [Darling] against George Osborne, I think it is clear to all who watched that she demonstrated authority and gravitas," he said.

Former ministers will be among those who miss out on a portfolio. Meanwhile, new rules guaranteeing places for six women among Mr Miliband's team mean that Ms Cooper, Tessa Jowell and Caroline Flint are almost certain to make the cut.

The appeals for support also reveal some soul-searching within the party. In a lengthy missive, Eric Joyce, a former defence minister, warned that Labour's position to remain in Afghanistan until the "until the job is done" risked making it appear "more conservative than the Tories".

"It'll be out of step with public opinion," he said. "It surely has to change." He also said the party's position opposing attempts to water down the like-for-like renewal of Trident "won't wash with the public". "People can see cuts have to be made and they're increasingly sceptical about Trident renewal," he said. "This doesn't mean they're necessarily against it; but they definitely want politicians to justify the costs as rigorously as any other area of expenditure." Many new MPs close to Mr Miliband, such as Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna, have been tipped for a swift rise to his shadow Cabinet. However, none have put themselves up for election so far. Only one new MP, Harriet Harman's husband, Jack Dromey, has entered the contest.

David Lammy, the former education minister, has deployed supporters to drum up support for his bid. All Labour MPs received an email signed by seven of their colleagues on Friday evening, saying Mr Lammy would be "an asset to our party".