Mystery over Ed Balls’s claim that the Miliband brothers are briefing against one another

Difference between accounts in Total Politics and the Sun.

Earlier, I mentioned that Ed Balls had accused David and Ed Miliband of briefing against each other, saying:

Between the brothers there has been a little bit of off-the-record briefing going on. Hopefully, the two of them will say to their supporters to stop it. It is pretty unedifying.

Now, it appears there is something of a mystery surrounding the fascinating interview, which is by Amber Elliott, political editor of Total Politics. The piece is officially under embargo until tomorrow, so I won't reproduce it here (I have read it, though, and I recommend that others do so when it's out).

However, the Sun received some of the words from the interview in advance, and reported it thus today:

THE Miliband brothers are waging a bitching war against each other as they battle for the Labour leadership, another rival has revealed.

Ed Miliband's supporters have been slagging off his brother David's "eccentric personality".

And David's fans are mocking Ed's "dodgy decision-making", according to former Education Secretary Ed Balls, who is also in the running.

In a plea to the other candidates to keep it clean, Mr Balls told Total Politics magazine: "Between the brothers there has been a little bit of off-the-record briefing going on.

"Hopefully, the two of them will say to their supporters to stop it. I think it is pretty unedifying."

Seizing the moral high ground, he added: "There will be no off-the-record briefings from anybody involved with me." His revelation is likely to provoke fury among rank-and-file party members. Labour's 13 years in power were plagued by cabinet ministers feuding behind the scenes -- speeding its downfall at the polls last month.

What is odd is that the "dodgy decision-making" and "eccentric personality" lines are not in the text of Elliott's piece. So, where did they come from? A source close to Ed Balls is adamant that they did not come from him. Perhaps the paper can explain.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.