Being a sweet-natured kind of guy who strives to see only the best in others, I regularly succumb to a fantasy of political self-sacrifice. The template is Major Franklin in The Guns of Navarone who, stricken with a gangrenous wound, tries to kill himself so that his compadres might live.
In succession to Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and others who have curiously ignored the suggestion, the latest recipient of this advice is Ed Balls. Whatever one thinks of his proposed restoration of the 50p income tax rate (regardless of its revenue implications, I support it as a moral imperative), new polling confirms that he is in a grave and possibly fatal liability. Three out of 10 said they would be more likely to vote Labour with an alternative shadow Chancellor. Presumably the other seven had sinus problems, and couldn’t smell the gangrene.
Ed Miliband’s unwillingness or perceived inability to sack him leaves a lone escape route out of this mess. It is seldom easy to love Ed Balls, and never less so than when, on Tuesday’s Newsnight, he failed to mask his disgust at improving economic figures. But he would instantly become an adored hero if he resigned to take another job – if only on the logic that, while none other has the cachet and power of Chancellor, any Cabinet post is better than none.