Balls avoids a “Portillo moment” (just)

Balls survives with a hugely reduced majority.

The Tories threw everything they had at him, but Ed Balls has avoided a "Portillo moment". Still, as the Schools Secretary said, it was a close-run thing. His Tory opponent, Antony Calvert, aided by Lord Ashcroft, ran a dogged campaign and reduced his majority from 9,784 to just 1,101.

Balls's survival is a boost for Gordon Brown (whose fiercest Labour enemy, Charles Clarke, has just lost his seatin Norwich South), and we can expect the Schools Secretary to go forward as the Brownite candidate in any future Labour leadership election.

I was always rather bemused by the Tories' obsession with defeating Balls. If he is such a destructive tribalist surely it is in their interests for him to remain in parliament? But perhaps giving Balls the fright of his life was pleasure enough.

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.