Balls says he and Miliband – who beat him to the party leadership in 2010 – rarely spoke to each other during the crucial election campaign.
In his memoir, Balls writes: “Having kept me at a distance in the run-up to the election in 2015, I think we probably only spoke twice in the whole four-week election campaign. That was astonishingly dysfunctional when I compare it to how Tony [Blair] and Gordon [Brown] worked.” His book is being serialised in the Times as he prepares to appear on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Balls, whose main focus was seeking to win back Labour’s reputation for managing the economy, also describes his horror when Miliband missed key passages on the deficit and immigration from his 2014 party conference speech – the last before the general election.
“The omissions were a symbol of Labour not being willing to face up to the problems the country was worried about, and proof that we were trying to brush difficult issues under the carpet. We weren’t ready – and didn’t deserve – to return to government. It was incredibly frustrating,” he said.
Miliband initially chose Alan Johnson as his shadow chancellor; but when Johnson stepped down for personal reasons, a deal was brokered between the two leadership rivals, and Balls agreed to serve as shadow chancellor.
His memoir makes clear that the relationship between the two men remained testy, however, and Miliband rejected his advice, including on confronting publicly his decision to run against his brother, David, for the leadership.
“Ed never wanted to address the issue, and when asked, he’d pretend that everything was hunky-dory between them, something no one believed,” Balls said.
Balls also addresses the current Labour leadership, warning that Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of “leftist utopian fantasy” will never bring the party back to power, despite rising membership, and the rousing atmosphere of its mass meetings. “Refusing to listen to the electorate has never been a winning formula, any more than Jeremy Corbyn thinking the volume of the cheering from your core supporters is a reliable guide to wider public opinion,” he said.
“Caution will not win the day, but nor will Jeremy Corbyn’s leftist utopian fantasy, devoid of connection to the reality of people’s lives.”
Balls lost his own Morley and Outwood seat at last May’s general election when David Cameron won a surprise victory.
This article was written by Heather Stewart, for theguardian.com on Monday 29th August 2016 11.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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