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By Peter Hoskin
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Balls cryingIt’s
only 239-words long, but this
Guardian editorial
packs quite a wallop — particularly if your name is
Edward Michael Balls and you’re the shadow chancellor.

Indeed,
it contains an implicit attack on Mr Balls in its very headline, which pitches
the idea of Paul Krugman, American commentator and Nobel Prize-winning
economist, being made shadow chancellor. Yet, beneath that, the implicit soon
becomes explicit. After describing Mr Krugman as a “potential star hire” for Ed
Miliband, the piece adds:

True, Ed Balls did mount an impressive plea for fiscal
stimulus in the Labour leadership campaign of 2010 – but the daily
grind of frontbench politics has reduced him to mouthing ‘too far, too fast.’”

And it ends by
describing just how Mr Miliband could scale the “procedural hurdles” that
separate Mr Krugman from Labour’s front bench. I’m sure the current shadow
chancellor will be delighted.

In truth, the
Guardian has never been as fond of Mr Balls as non-readers might expect: sift
through past
editorials
, and there’s as much muted criticism as there is muted praise for
the man. But today’s editorial is still quite some shift from, say, that written
after his last conference speech. “He still cannot quite shrug off the
[Brownite] inheritance,” the paper observed
then
, “and yet — by graft and by prescience — he has certainly made himself
count.”

And, what’s more, this
comes at a time when Mr Balls’ stock is unusually low. We all heard the rumours
that Miliband Minor was looking to replace him with Miliband Major, but it’s
the pre-existing trends that are more important. Despite Labour’s consistent
opinion poll leads, George Osborne and the Tories are still ahead when it comes
to economic competence. Despite the Government’s vulnerability, the shadow
chancellor is struggling, more and more, to land any blows.

In
which case, you can expect the Kill Balls chatter to continue for the
foreseeable. Whether anyone else will advocate Paul Krugman as his replacement
is another matter entirely.

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