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Memo to Ed Miliband: Don't make Balls your Shadow Chancellor

By Paul Goodman

Ed Balls As you may know, I wrote an open letter to you last month.  It assumed that you'll win Labour's leadership contest.  I may be wrong about the outcome, but have seen nothing since then to make that outcome less likely.  In my note, I offered you some advice and, as I reminded you at the end of it, I'm a Tory - so I wouldn't try to mislead you, would I?

Roughly six weeks have passed since, and events have moved on.  Ed Balls has opposed Michael Gove's scaling-back of the Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF, which he himself devised).  Your rival for the leadership also claims on his website to be campaigning to "Stop the VAT bombshell" and "Save Free School meals".

Balls doesn't say, of course, that he drew up his BSF plans without having a clue how they'd be funded.  And his other "campaigns" look a bit of a Potemkin village.  I can't help seeing Balls as a great comic creation, who as Labour's leader would enthuse its core supporters and repeal floating voters.  His Guardian article this morning suggests that he'd contest the next election on a platform of higher interest and mortgage rates.

Which brings me to my point.  Under no account make Balls your Shadow Chancellor if you win.  He may be wrong about policy, but he's also financially literate - and rampantly energetic as well as a compulsive intriguer.  (Oh, I was forgetting that you know that already - and, er, know Damian McBride too, don't you?)  If you appointed Balls to shadow George Osborne, you'd never be master in your house.  You'd be barraged at the next election by media and Tory fire - battered by accusations that your plans would bankrupt families and households.

Your relationship with Balls would be like Neil Kinnock's with John Smith.  And we know how that story ended, don't we?