Ed Balls has been the Labour MP for Normanton since the 2005 general election.
His elevation to the Labour Cabinet (in 2007 as the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families) could have been his reward for being Gordon Brown’s adviser from 1994 to 1999 and chief economic adviser to the Treasury from 1999 to 2004. In the latter post Oxford and Harvard-educated Balls was called the “most powerful unelected person in Britain”.
For nine months between 2004 and 2005 Balls was employed by the Smith Institute, Gordon Brown’s favourite political think tank. His renumeration was reported to be £100,000. Not bad for a gap year.
Balls is regarded as the “intellectual power-horse” behind Gordon Brown. Big in the Fabian Society, Balls was responsible for such ideas as the independence of the Bank of England. That, said Balls, would “liberate the Treasury”… to stick its nose into the business of every other government department. Balls also supported New Labour’s policy of “light-touch regulation” of the banks. That in turn helped to promote the expansion of Britain’s financial sector… and we all know where that eventually led.
New Statesman hack Martin Bright once managed to get Ed Balls to call himself a socialist. “If it means I care about inequality and social justice, if it means that I believe we can build a sense of community by acting together, then I am happy to call myself a socialist.” Not what we’d call socialism!
Since becoming an MP Balls has had less scope for intellectual innovation. With the most dramatic of New Labour’s education reform in the past, Balls has been left to promote a mixed bag of “tidying up” measures.
The latest education bill contained a mix of the good (compulsory sex eduction), the populist (New York-style report cards for primary and secondary schools), the ill-thought out, (an overhaul of the primary curriculum, which emphasised traditional areas of learning), and the bureaucratic, (forcing teachers to undergo MOTs every five years to make sure they are fit to teach).