Ed Balls is in a bind.
On the one hand he has been the most effective member of the shadow cabinet in recent weeks, successfully landing punch after punch on the coalition over the Building Schools for the Future programme.
On the other his leadership campaign is running into the sand. In a poll last night for the Sun he came in fifth behind all the other candidates, with just 11 per cent of those polled (against 37 per cent for David M and 29 per cent for Ed M). It seems that Labour supporters haven’t warmed to him.
So what to do? If Balls swings his weight behind one of the brothers he could give significant momentum to that candidate and therefore secure the shadow chancellorship as a reward. If he stays in the contest and comes third he might get that job anyway. But if he comes in fifth the winner is under no obvious obligation to give him that plum role, for which he is qualified and would no doubt want.
There are obvious problems, however. a] He would need to back the right brother. b] Not all of his followers would take his lead.
We know from experience that one enduring characteristic of the shadow schools secretary is his stubborn streak and refusal to back down. Giving up isn’t in his nature.
There is a more subtle back-room way of solving the conundrum, however. Balls said yesterday that he may decide in September whether he is willing to recommend a second preference candidate, according to a Patrick Wintour article this morning. That option – whereby he give an endorsement without losing face – seems increasingly likely.