Commentary - 'Chancellor Ed' wipes Labour's slate clean

1st October 2010 at 01:00

The Labour Conference this week was all about change. There was a change in leader in the shape of Ed Miliband. With his coronation, there was undoubtedly a change in rhetoric.

Mr Miliband said he would not oppose every cut the Coalition Government proposed. He said his generation was one that "thirsts for change", and so to address that, he said he will "set a new direction of change".

But what had not changed was Ed Balls. The shadow education secretary has made little secret of his desire to take on the role of shadow chancellor and this week during conference he showed little sign of deviating from that course.

Mr Balls' keynote address on Wednesday was less an education speech and more a job interview for the role he so covets.

More than half his speech was dedicated to how the Labour Party should oppose the "ideological cuts" that have been introduced by the Coalition Government.

On the rare occasion Mr Balls did refer to education it was to further strengthen his stance for investment versus coalition cuts.

It was a tactic that he and his deputy Vernon Coaker used throughout the Labour Conference in Manchester, and one that had changed very little since the last annual conference in Brighton a year ago. Then as now, Mr Balls defended the previous 13 years of Labour's time in government and attacked the Conservatives' plans for new academies and free schools as being a "free market free-for-all".

This week he attacked Michael Gove's decision to scrap Building Schools for the Future, one-to-one tuition, the extension of free school meals and many other Labour initiatives without offering any insight into where he would have trimmed the fat to address the country's deficit.

In an unflinching defence of his party's performance over the past 13 years, Mr Balls largely failed to recognise that there is a reason his party now sits on the opposite side of the Commons.

Mr Miliband wants his victory to be seen as a victory for change; whether that change will include the position of shadow schools secretary is yet to be seen.

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