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.
Personally I don’t buy into this one. Balls does have significant support within Labour (despite his Marmite* characteristics) and had already gathered 14 names in public earlier this week. Just now he’s put another six into the public domain (John Healey, Tom Blenkinsop, Chris Leslie, Steve McCabe, Ian Austin and Jim Dobbin). I know of others who will follow suit, eg John Spellar and Tom Watson. And Yvette Cooper, his wife. He now only needs another dozen to make it.
The high-profile candidate who still seems eerily bereft of backers is Andy Burnham, with only half a dozen at the last count. One MP (who is in the David Miliband camp) told me there are questions over whether Burnham will get anywhere near 33.
* Apparently you either love or loathe it