Tuesday 24 August 2010

Balls looks ahead...

Since the Liberal Democrat defection rumours flew around at the weekend the Labour leadership candidates have been laying out the “welcome mat” for political switchers.

This morning it was still going on. Ed Miliband put out a release in which he said: "To those middle class voters who have switched to the Lib Dems, I say look again at how Labour is changing."

Andy Burnham had even ridiculously suggested yesterday that Lib Dem party members who wanted to switch to Labour should get their membership fees subsidized.

But today David Miliband struck a slightly different note. Yes Lib Dems are joining Labour, he told Lobbydog, but there was something more important not to lose sight of.

"We in the Labour party have got to be respectful and open for people who didn’t vote for us last time, but we’ve also got to insist that the main enemy is the Tories," he said.

"That is the absolutely key point. The Government is being run by the Tories. It is them who are going to be the big choice at the next election – Labour or Tory."

Focussing fire on the Tories is a good tactical call from D Miliband who, being the leadership contest’s front-runner, would probably like to think he is setting Labour’s agenda on this and other issues.

But I’ve often found that it is actually Ed Balls, being a natural pernickety political scrapper, who gets these tactical points right ahead of others.

True enough after a moment’s search I found this Times article Balls wrote on August 3.

"We risk falling into Mr Cameron’s trap by focusing our fire too much on the Liberal Democrats…while we must win back voters lost to the Lib Dems, we must not let the Tories off the hook," he wrote.

It’s not the first time either. When the Coalition was considering putting up VAT Balls had been going on about it for weeks.

When it actually happened, and the other candidates began criticising the Government, Balls stopped and moved on to slamming Gove for the BSF schools cock up.

With just a month or so to go before the Labour leadership contest ends, I’m hoping the fight will liven up a bit – a head on battle between D Miliband and Balls would be just the job.

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