Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ed Miliband, the poker power player

That Ed Miliband, I wouldn't play poker against him.

I've just dumped a whole feature length interview with Labour leader into the electronic bin after returning to Westminster at 5pm to find out that Alan Johnson had changed the script while I was out.

Just before I sat down with Ed Miliband in Wolverhampton at lunchtime he had to take a phonecall, which in retrospect, was the finalisation of Johnson's resignation.

Afterwards he rattled through a quickfire interview on the Scottish election campaign - he's in Scotland on Friday - in record time. But there wasn't a hint of anything being amiss unless you wind back the tape to the point where he says how much he was enjoying being Labour leader, "even in the dark days".

Other than that there was no signal, no sign of the unfolding drama and the major shadow cabinet reshuffle that was taking place on the hotline from Wolves FC to Westminster.

The very fact that the reshuffle took place on the hop, as the leader was travelling through the West Midlands, shows that this wasn't a move to dump Johnson, who was a highly regarded politician despite his apparent lacking of economic detail. There's lots of speculation about why he did stand down but "personal" covers it for now.

Some are presenting the outcome, Ed Balls in the shadow chancellor seat, as the best possible outcome in the worst of circumstances. Balls will be a combative match for Osborne - attack dog vs scorpion is how Ann Treneman is billing it - but he also has unfulfilled leadership ambitions.

In politics your enemies are often the ones behind you, not these on the benches opposite. The appointment of Balls opens up a new chapter of intrigue in the Labour hierarchy, though this time it could be Brown on Brown gunfire. The right wing media will immediately start asking if two Eds are better than one.

Someone who'll be gutted (again) is David Miliband. He might be waiting quietly for the crown to slip from his brother's head but now its' Ed Balls who'll be closer to hand to grasp the prize.#

Meanwhile, congratulations Douglas Alexander - Shadow Foreign Secretary, a plum job even in opposition

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