“Whatever the opposite is of star quality, Ed Balls has it in spades,” says Jenni Russell in The Times. “Faltering, red-faced, shouting to be heard above his hecklers”, he “made a complete hash” of his response to the chancellor’s Autumn Statement.
The irony is that his analysis is right. Britain would have been “better served by a Keynesian burst of investment”. Growth is weaker than George Osborne anticipated. But this wasn’t the time to repeat the same old arguments.
Faced with an economy that is improving, he needed to adjust his approach and persuade voters that Labour can be trusted to run the country. Yet he has neither shaped a vision for the future, “nor accepted his and his party’s responsibility for some of the economic errors of the recent past”.
Balls has always had “the dangerous tendency for a politician of wanting to win an argument”, says Aditya Chakrabortty in The Guardian. Events have moved on, and so should he.
A “Westminster discussion worth listening to” would acknowledge that our economy is recovering, but ask why that recovery is serving so few people. However, Labour appears to have got stuck on what to say. Just about any response would have been an improvement on the one Balls gave – “sarcastic, subtle, patronising, teasing, anything”, says Matthew Engel in the FT.
Instead, he just “shouted the old news in a cod-angry voice about flatlining and the cost of living and the triple-A credit rating”.
Ed Miliband should move Balls, says John Rentoul in The Independent on Sunday. Appoint Chuka Umunna or Stella Creasy; “someone with shock value and star quality, who was not an MP when Labour was in power”. But he won’t.
Lulled by his lead in the polls, “Miliband is oblivious to the urgency of Labour’s credibility crisis”. He thinks that he is winning the argument and the public supports his “kinder, gentler capitalism”.
He’s wrong – and Balls may understand that himself. “But this is Miliband’s election to lose and he must lose it in his own way.”