Balls toughens Labour's stance on the euro

Shadow chancellor says that there is "no possibility" of Britain joining the euro "in my lifetime".

Speaking in the Commons, Ed Balls has just made the remarkable declaration that "there's no possibility anytime in my lifetime of a British government joining the euro". His statement represents a significant shift of policy by Labour, which had previously said only that it was unlikely that Britain would join the single currency in the near future. In his recent speech on the EU, Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, said that while joining the euro "is not on Labour's agenda" there "is no need to be dogmatic on these questions", noting that "future generations of politicians may find that circumstances have changed".

But Balls, who is deservedly proud of his role in keeping the UK out of the euro, felt that an unambiguous statement was needed. Labour's policy reversal leaves the Lib Dems as the only one of the three main parties refusing to rule out euro membership.

Incidentally, for a list of prominent political figures who still support UK membership in theory, see my blog from last month, "Who still thinks Britain should join the euro?"

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Labour slumps to fourth place in North Hykeham and Sleaford by-election

Conservative candidate Caroline Johnson eased to victory as Labour tumbled from second to fourth place.

Caroline Johnson was elected as the Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, while Labour slumped from second to fourth behind Ukip and the Liberal Democrats, who finished second and third respectively. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Stephen Philips.

The seat, which has been safely Conservative since its creation, backed Brexit by a 20-point margin on 23 June. The Tory victory, with 53.5 per cent of the vote, is one of the party’s all-time best by-election performances while in government. 

Johnson won with 17,570 votes. In second was Ukip's Victoria Ayling, with 4,426 votes. Ross Pepper recieved 3,606 votes, while Labour's Jim Clarke got 3,363 votes.

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