Are two Eds better than one?
Politics is a rough enough game at the best of times, without the need to have to constantly look over your shoulder or watch your back because your second-in-command has designs on your job.
The reason the Cameron-Osborne partnership works well is because George Osborne is very content in his present role, has absolutely no vaulting ambition to succeed Mr Cameron and there is a great deal of mutual respect. The reason the Blair-Brown partnership worked for so long was because of the verbal ‘Granita’ agreement which bound them to a common economic purpose with a clear understanding that the Treasury would be virtually co-regent with No10.
It has to be observed that there is no such mutual respect between Eds Balls and Miliband, no such verbal agreement, no common purpose (other than to win the next general election) and no agreed division of the kingdom.
Two heads are only better than one where there is unity of purpose, singularity of vision, solidarity in philosophy and univocity in policy.
Eds Balls and Miliband conflict, contradict, confute and counteract.
There is no possibility that Ed Balls – Gordon Brown’s chancellor of preference – will be content with fewer fingers in the policy pies which his political mentor and economic idol was permitted. There will be an aggressive accretion of power to his political base and the next four years will be a re-run of the Blair-Brown tales of infighting, gainsaying, undermining and ultimate betrayal.
And it will be even easier with his wife by his side as Shadow Home Secretary.
As the architect of Gordon Brown’s economic policies, he will not relinquish ownership, admit error or concede that anyone but he has the necessary grasp of macroeconomics: he alone is qualified, certified by Oxford and Harvard, and credible. His orthodoxy is fixed; on taxation, welfare, jobs and banking regulation. Ed Balls will simply bring us more of the fiscal woes which brought the nation to its economic knees.
Ed Miliband wants to learn from past mistakes. But they were Ed Balls’ mistakes. From central banks stripped of their supervisory powers to the borrow-and-spend which maxed out the nation’s credit card, the Brown boom was an illusion but the Balls bust is acutely real and is going to be very painful.
Eds Balls and Miliband do not agree on public spending, public sector accounting, the 50p rate of taxation or the rate of wealth redistribution. There is no unity on benefits and welfare, public sector employment, debt repayment or deficit reduction.
There is paralysis, tension, impairment and dysfunction.
Exacerbated by the incontrovertible fact that Ed Miliband passed over Ed Balls for the post of Shadow Chancellor just a few months ago: it will not be easy to counter the perception that Ed Balls is second choice, second rate and second best.
Labour’s body politic is divided: it is not simply that the left hand does not know what the right is doing; it has two heads, an oversized spleen, one foot, 254 thumbs and no heart.
And the brain manifests those very symptoms of schizophrenia responsible for Labour’s internecine warfare.
On his appointment, Ed Balls said: "It is my job with the Labour party to take the argument to the country that there is an alternative – we don't have to do it this way.”
He was, of course, speaking about George Osborne’s economic strategy.
One might be forgiven for believing it was another pitch to lead his party.