The first stark and rather tragic message from the Alan Johnson resignation is why on earth would anyone subject themselves to such a relentless goldfish bowl existence. Whatever the ins and outs of Alan Johnson’s personal problems, the chances are they have been exacerbated by his political existence and now he and his family have to bear with the merciless, hysterical tabloid press coverage of it. Little wonder that so many decent people, who share the human characteristic of all of us of being flawed, would think twice – or often not at all – before entering the world of political public service.
Away of the personal side of the story, the Tories are claiming to be pleased [although see Paul Goodman's take on Conservative Home] that Ed Balls is now shadow Chancellor. Their line is that this is the man who is the co-architect of Gordon Brown’s economic recession, but frankly that won’t wash for long, and the real problem for them is that Balls represents a much more distinctive voice on economic affairs, and is a far more competent spokesman than the lamented Mr. Johnson. My prediction is that Balls will be making life significantly more difficult for George Osborne, as well as depriving David Cameron of some of punchlines in PMQs – after all, he won’t be able to claim any more that the shadow chancellor can’t do his sums.
James Forsyth on the Spectator site comments on the double-edged consequence for the Tories of the Balls appointment, concluding that Balls’ tactical superiority over Johnson won’t outweigh the Tories’ fundamental strategic advantage. Let’s see.