The Sketch: Now lurking in the shadows: Labour's beast with two Eds

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The Independent Online

Now that the shadow Leader and shadow Chancellor are set in place for the rest of the parliament, one thing we know.

Labour is looking at the electorate through four of the strangest eyes in modern politics.

Glaring, staring, blazing, throbbing and swimming are among the descriptions. Most eyes are receptors; theirs are projectors. So if I look at Ed Miliband too long I hear a voice in my head going, "Sleepy and sleepier, you are falling into my power." But looking at Ed Balls I get: "All I want is a view, Clarice, a view and perhaps a tree." I don't know if they frighten the Government but by God they'll terrify the voters.

Never mind what they look like to us – what do we look like to them?

The first indication came from this week's meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. John Healey (Health) gave the MPs a speech that must have been devised or at least approved by the three of them. He told his colleagues, in terms, that David Cameron had used the death of his disabled son to detoxify the Tory brand and to validate his party's position on the NHS.

To the credit of Labour MPs present, this was thought to be lower than the mould which grows on the scum that covers the waste that snakes leave behind them in the night. It shows that Ed Balls has moved on from Damian McBride – but in the wrong direction. The only thing lacking in those earlier slurs was enough slurry.

But that's in the background.

On his first big public outing as shadow Chancellor yesterday, he didn't do as badly as you might have expected. He looked clean, tidy hair. A director would cast him as the third, respectable, Kray brother. He listened to the interviewers' questions. He kept under control his penchant for omniscience. And he almost completely concealed his delight at the rotten news.

Bear in mind that his success depends on the economy failing. Of course he is going to smirk a little when he hears the words "unemployment rising" or "zero growth". His reputation flourishes insofar as millions suffer. The more poverty, the more he prospers.

Equally he knows he mustn't be seen to be taking satisfaction in it – which is why he said: "I hope this trend doesn't continue. That is absolutely what I hope."

So, if growth bounces back to 3 per cent and unemployment starts falling steadily, Ed Balls will tell us how relieved he is that George Osborne was right all along.

He'll need a moral structure the size of the Statue of Liberty.

Interestingly, he said that he didn't think there was going to be a recession. Remember that he has a very high regard for his forecasting abilities. When asked some years ago where we were in the economic cycle (that unknowable fact) he said: "In three months I will tell you where we are in the cycle to two decimal places!" In fact, after two attempts to define the end of the cycle and one to redefine the beginning – the cycle ended entirely unpredicted, with a crash that shook the world.

He thought we were merely in for a period of slow growth. He recommended "a more balanced approach" of generating more tax revenue to put into the deficit. It sounded devilishly like an early Tory strategy called "sharing the proceeds of growth".

He can't have realised what he was saying.