The sudden resignation of Alan Johnson from the post of Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer has led to a reshuffle at the top of Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s team.
In his resignation statement, which took Westminster by surprise, Johnson stated, ‘I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet for personal reasons to do with my family.
“I have found it difficult to cope with these personal issues in my private life whilst carrying out an important frontbench role.”
Ed Miliband moved quickly to fill the vacancy by moving economist Ed Balls from the Home Office brief. This caused something of a knock on effect in the top jobs, with Balls’ wife Yvette Cooper taking over as Shadow Home Secretary and Scots MP Douglas Alexander becoming Shadow Foreign Secretary.
Miliband has stated that there will be no change in Labour’s economic policy, but he might find that Balls has a slightly different approach to Johnson. A former adviser to Gordon Brown when he was Chancellor, Balls is certainly to the left of his leader. And this is something that both governing parties will be sure to play on.
During the Labour leadership contest, Balls called for a slower deficit reduction plan than that proposed by former Chancellor Alastair Darling, in order to protect the recovery and promote growth. And the government will also be keen to point this out.
Ed Balls finally has the brief that he wants. And he will prove a formidable opponent for Chancellor George Osborne .Many predicted he would be made Shadow Chancellor last year, but at the time Ed Miliband made what he felt to be the safer appointment of Johnson.
Balls’ instinct is to attack, and his first statement made clear how he will approach the new role. ‘Our task ahead is to take on George Osborne and David Cameron’s decision to cut too far and too fast, recklessly putting jobs and growth at risk,’ said Balls.
But he also recognises that a positive approach is required, stating, ‘We will set out to the public that there is an alternative: a fair economy which puts jobs and growth first. I look forward to taking on and winning this argument.’
This is a reshuffle that Ed Miliband was not looking for. But he has acted quickly and decisively and will hope that the momentum built from both by-election success and good poll ratings will continue.
And Balls v Osborne is a clash I am very much looking forward to.