I’m not the first journalist to point out that Balls has his work cut out to distance himself from Gordon Brown, his old mentor. But in a Telegraph interview tonight he has a stab at it:
(He also reveals that Labour was prepared to reconsider Trident as the price for a coalition deal. And that he had to talk Gordon Brown out of standing on the proviso that he would step down after a year). Read more
There could be “blood on the wall” within the Labour brotherhood over plans by the party’s general secretary, Ray Collins, to limit the unions’ involvement in the leadership contest. Their phrase, not mine.
Mr Collins, himself a former T&G official, surprised union general secretaries at a private meeting on Tuesday when he proposed a change to the rules to stop them leafleting their members to tell them who they were supporting. I’m told the barons were “furious” at the “crazy” plan to prevent the unions informing their members what they thought about the contest. Collins has also restricted the spending by each candidate to £155,000.
A meeting of the NEC procedures committee yesterday failed to resolve the leafleting issue but the union leaders are threatening blue murder if Collins gets his way. “I don’t know what he’s playing at,” says one union source.
Some Westminster journalists presume all unions will back Ed Balls en masse on the basis that he is friendly with Charlie Whelan, political officer for Unite. If only things were so simple. That theory is undermined by the internecine rivalries within the movement and within each union. Read more
There is a bit of speculation around Westminster that the former schools secretary may not gather the 33 MPs he needs to mount a leadership bid – even with the deadline extended from Thursday to June 9. The theory is that his charms are lost on some members of the PLP. Read more
Of all the new cabinet ministers surely one of the most obscure – until recently – is Danny Alexander, who was chief of staff for Nick Clegg. Alexander has played a key role in producing the Lib Dem manifesto and in the coalition talks of recent days, working closely with the Tories’ Oliver Letwin to produce yesterday’s coalition agreement. Read more
Polly Curtis at the Guardian brought us the story yesterday of an MPs letter complaining about the new expenses regime at the House of Commons. (Run by IPSA – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority). Members are writhing over perceived unfairness, for example:
* The £110,000 budget for staff is less than some MPs received before, after pensions are taken into account, meaning they have to cut wages, lay off staff or top up the payments themselves. Read more