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Alan Johnson

Balls secures his prize in Shadow Cabinet revamp

The good news for the Labour Party is that they've got themselves a new, combative, economically literate shadow Chancellor, a man who was put on God's good green earth to make George Osborne's life intolerable. "Attack Dog" is a terrible cliché, but it fits Balls's bull mastiff-like demeanour. He will pursue his mission with all the monomaniacal zeal that his mentor, Gordon Brown, brought to the task of harrying the confidence out of successive Tory chancellors in the 1990s.

Diary: Mandy out of step with Beeb

Waltzing Peter Mandelson, seen here strutting his stuff at Blackpool's Tower Ballroom, will not be appearing on his beloved Strictly Come Dancing, but controversy still rages as to who snubbed whom: Mandy or the BBC. The former First Secretary suggested stroppily to Total Politics magazine that no invitation to strut his stuff had been forthcoming: "They had their opportunity [to ask me]," he said, "and now they can get lost." Yet the Corporation's head of comms for Entertainment insists that, on the contrary, Mandelson declined an offer to take part – unlike cross-party fox-trotters Ann Widdecombe and Vince Cable, who is due to feature in a Christmas special. Well, it is two years since Mandy first expressed his interest in the show; perhaps the Beeb just played too hard to get.

Relief for Osborne on rare day of good news

George Osborne received a double helping of good news yesterday: better-than-expected figures on the strength of the recovery and an upgrade from the credit-ratings agency Standard & Poor.

David Prosser: Equitable victims take their share of pain

Outlook One small part of the spending review that the shadow Chancellor, Alan Johnson, chose not to address in his response was Mr Osborne's announcement of a £1.5bn compensation settlement for victims of the Equitable Life injustice. No wonder: the Chancellor was quite right to accuse his Labour predecessors in Government of "dithering" in their response to a series of reports from the Parliamentary Ombudsman, calling for redress for those who lost out as a result of the failure to properly regulate Equitable. Moreover, on the face of it, the offer made to Equitable victims looks to be a decent one.

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