Leading article: Mr Miliband must not let history repeat itself

If necessary, the Labour leader must cut Mr Balls adrift and try to limit the fallout

Share
Related Topics

No one who has observed British politics in recent decades needs any reminding about the fraught relationship that can exist between a Prime Minister and a Chancellor. Whether there is something in the water at the Cabinet table or perhaps an exaggerated respect for the office of Chancellor, a tension seems to be inherent in the comparative power wielded by the politician who leads the party and the politician who holds the purse strings. Nor is that tension unique to the party in government.

Rumblings in Westminster as the summer recess draws to a close suggest that, while the focus has been on George Osborne and the considerable potential for rifts within the Coalition, the Opposition front bench has quietly experienced its own difficulties. The two Eds – Miliband and Balls – it is said, are finding it harder to get along, with the shadow Chancellor becoming increasingly domineering and trying to dictate a more permissive line on banking regulation than Mr Miliband would, if left to himself.

Now it is hardly news that the Labour leader and the shadow Chancellor are very different people, nor that they were rivals for the job Mr Miliband now holds. Indeed, there was much speculation at the time of his victory that these differences might leave Mr Balls out in the cold. Some saw Mr Miliband's decision to keep Mr Balls on the Opposition front bench, then to name him shadow Chancellor, as courageous. A more pragmatic explanation was that the Labour leader felt his past, and perhaps future, rival would more dangerous outside the tent than in. Plus, the appointment signalled that Mr Miliband wanted to unify the party after the bruising leadership contest and its unpredicted result.

With the shadow of the poisonous Blair-Brown relationship still hanging heavy over the party, however, there were also risks for Mr Miliband in appointing an ambitious shadow Chancellor with whom he might not see eye to eye. If present rumours are correct, and they are certainly credible, it has taken 18 months, give or take, for the disputes to reach a head.

In which case, it is less Mr Cameron – on the threshold of a mid-term reshuffle – who has a Chancellor problem than Mr Miliband, and the Labour leader needs to address it sooner rather than later. That the Blair-Brown experience lies so recently in the past should convince him that doing nothing could be yet more dangerous than doing something –but what?

Clearly, Mr Miliband cannot allow the Blair-Brown history to repeat itself without undercutting his own position and that of his party. Clearly, too, there will come a time, if it is not already here, when the effort needed to project a united Labour front becomes counterproductive. With a nine-point poll lead and erstwhile critics starting to admit that they might have misjudged him, Mr Miliband is in a much stronger position entering the conference season than he was a year ago. Indeed, with the Coalition languishing as it is, he is in a stronger position than he might be again.

It would make sense for him to use this advantage to have it out with Mr Balls, and discuss frankly whether there is room for them both, policy-wise, in the same team. If they can agree, then Mr Balls may stay, with full acceptance of who is boss. If not, Mr Miliband must cut Mr Balls adrift and try to limit the fallout. The economy is the political battleground of today, and Labour cannot afford the perception that it speaks with forked tongue.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?