Left Watch

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Labour is claiming that Balls's plot is "the past". Wrong. For Miliband, it's the present

by Paul Goodman

Journalists must sometimes admit defeat.  The sun was rising when I got up this morning to edit ConservativeHome's newslinks.  But even had I started earlier during the darkness, I'd be unable to offer a proper account of this morning's Daily Telegraph splash.

I add in my defence that no-one else will either.  The paper has unearthed over 30 secret documents detailing Ed Balls and Gordon Brown's plot to unseat Tony Blair as Prime Minister.  This trove of conspiracy is the paper's biggest coup since the expenses scandal: no-one will yet have exhausted it.

I put Balls's name first because the documents are his.  The Guardian is running with the enquiry into the leak that the Cabinet Secretary has already called.  The Shadow Chancellor seems to be claiming that he left the documents in Whitehall after leaving Government.

Labour is saying that the documents are "history".  This is plumb wrong, and leads to the big point worth making: the Telegraph's scoop is about the present, not the past.  Labour is haunted by the Blair/Brown war about succession as much as our own party was, post-1997, by the Thatcher/Major-era conflicts over Europe.

It took four Conservative leaders to regain Downing Street.  It would be foolish to make forecasts about Labour's own fate.  But Miliband will today be haunted by the thought that while Thatcher and Major were gone from Tory governance post-1997, Balls is Labour's Shadow Chancellor. 

It would be dishonest to pretend that Brown's chief acolyte isn't a big political hitter: he is.  But many of those big hits have been landed on his own Party - or at least the half of it that backed Blair (and Miliband's brother)  Part of the art of political reinvention is "conceding and moving on".  But Balls has not moved on, and isn't moving on.  Until or unless he does, Labour's time past is part of its time present.