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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices