Is Ed Balls being set up for a fall?

Ed Balls may be on the receiving end of a Labour Party thrashing soon, and that may well be a calculated move by Miliband and friends

The weakest link?
Alex Wickham, UK Politics Editor
On 3 June 2013 17:08

With the Labour Party's fortunes slipping away to UKIP gains, against a backdrop of Tory-led headlines, the Westminster rumour mill churns with what chances Labour leader Ed Miliband has of success in 2015 with his current leading line-up.

Already we've seen Labour donors and party strategists alike suggesting that Milband and Balls are "policy light" and "not compelling". It was Labour's largest donor of the year who implied that the party would need to do something drastic to capture the voters' imaginations at a General Election which is now less than two years away.

And although the headlines remain Tory-focused for the wrong reasons for Cameron, such a fact means that the party still commands the mindset of the media and the electorate, pushing Labour further into the darkest recesses of the voting public's consciousness.

One strategy that has been remarked upon is whether or not Miliband needs to lose Ed Balls in order to succeed. Critics have suggested that Alistair Darling would be a safer pair of hands, and Labour backbenchers are stumping for former leadership candidate Jon Cruddas, as The Sun reported last month.

So is Ed Balls being knifed in the front?

Today's coverage of the Shadow Chancellor's plans and his speech at Thomson Reuters has been tepid at best, and scathing at its worst. And that's just from the Left-wingers. 

The paltry £100m cutting plan which targets the benefits of the elderly rich was described as "utterly meaningless" by Tories - but what did the Left have to say about it?

Labour bankroller and moneyman Brian Strutton, head of the GMB trade union fumed this morning: "A really perplexing speech... Saying so far in advance of the next election that Labour will do nothing substantially different until at least 2017 shows a complete absence of aspiration for ordinary working families... highly divisive, unfair and yield little real benefit... laughable."

Neal Lawson, chair of the leftwing pressure group Compass said, "This is terrible politics from Labour... This small cut to a few pensioners’ benefits will save hardly anything."

Labour MP Austin Mitchell rips into Labour's Son-Of-Brown: "Ed Balls is wrong to aim at respectability by cutting. Austerity won't work. What Labour needs is a plan for growth and jobs..."

Peter Hain MP, former Cabinet Minister and ex-Chair of the Ed Miliband's National Policy Forum rubbishes Ed Balls in the Huffington Post, saying his new wheeze would only save "peanuts."

And even the loyalist bloggers are breaking ranks, with Labour List's Mark Ferguson stating, "The principle of universality isn’t worth abandoning for a measly £100 million saving... and nor is today’s announcement likely to solve Labour’s economic credibility problem".

Which makes you wonder - was it really sound Labour strategising to announce such a small cut, while attacking the Left's own idea of equality, under the universality principle? Or was this Miliband-esque positioning which might allow him to dump Ed Balls in favour of someone more appealing to the electorate?

It may not be too long before we find out, because by any stretch of the imagination, Labour should be eviscerating the Tories in polling and at the ballot box right now. Instead, the party is trundling along with the bare minimum in successes that you might expect from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition at a time when the Tories are as unpopular in their own ranks as in the eyes of the public.

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator, Alex Wickham is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator

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