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Ed Balls and civil liberties

What does this appointment show about Ed Miliband's commitment to a liberal approach?

The appointment of Ed Balls as shadow Home Secretary is remarkable and disappointing, for it appears only explicable in terms of Ed Miliband seeking to marginalise an internal party rival.

Last week I wrote that Miliband's leadership speech made the right noises about civil liberties and human rights.

But the first real test of this commitment seems to have been flunked. Balls voted strongly for ID cards and, as Education Secretary, promoted surveillance and database policies with far more enthusiasm than his job required.

One can see why Miliband wanted to keep Balls from the shadow chancellorship. One can also see why the success of Yvette Cooper required her to have one of the top shadow cabinet positions.

But this appointment -- on the basis of Balls' record to date -- does not indicate a serious commitment by the new Labour leader to reversing his party's post-2001 position as the illiberal party in UK politics.

Perhaps Balls will prove this indication wrong.

For there can be no doubt that the Coalition needs to be attacked from the left on a range of Home Office matters.

David Allen Green is a lawyer and writer. He blogs for the New Statesman on legal and policy matters.