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The Guardian kicks Balls when he’s down

By Peter Hoskin
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Balls cryingIt’s only 239-words long, but this Guardian editorial packs quite a wallop — particularly if your name is Edward Michael Balls and you’re the shadow chancellor.

Indeed, it contains an implicit attack on Mr Balls in its very headline, which pitches the idea of Paul Krugman, American commentator and Nobel Prize-winning economist, being made shadow chancellor. Yet, beneath that, the implicit soon becomes explicit. After describing Mr Krugman as a “potential star hire” for Ed Miliband, the piece adds:

True, Ed Balls did mount an impressive plea for fiscal stimulus in the Labour leadership campaign of 2010 – but the daily grind of frontbench politics has reduced him to mouthing ‘too far, too fast.’”

And it ends by describing just how Mr Miliband could scale the “procedural hurdles” that separate Mr Krugman from Labour’s front bench. I’m sure the current shadow chancellor will be delighted.

In truth, the Guardian has never been as fond of Mr Balls as non-readers might expect: sift through past editorials, and there’s as much muted criticism as there is muted praise for the man. But today’s editorial is still quite some shift from, say, that written after his last conference speech. “He still cannot quite shrug off the [Brownite] inheritance,” the paper observed then, “and yet — by graft and by prescience — he has certainly made himself count.”

And, what’s more, this comes at a time when Mr Balls’ stock is unusually low. We all heard the rumours that Miliband Minor was looking to replace him with Miliband Major, but it’s the pre-existing trends that are more important. Despite Labour’s consistent opinion poll leads, George Osborne and the Tories are still ahead when it comes to economic competence. Despite the Government’s vulnerability, the shadow chancellor is struggling, more and more, to land any blows.

In which case, you can expect the Kill Balls chatter to continue for the foreseeable. Whether anyone else will advocate Paul Krugman as his replacement is another matter entirely.