UK Politics

Ed Balls calls Corbyn leadership a 'leftist fantasy'

Ed Balls Image copyright PA
Image caption Ed Balls will appear on Strictly Come Dancing

Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls has said Jeremy Corbyn's Labour leadership style is a "leftist utopian fantasy".

Mr Balls said Mr Corbyn's approach was "devoid of connection to the reality of people's lives".

The remarks are made in his autobiography, Speaking Out, which also includes candid reflections on Labour's general election defeat last year.

Mr Corbyn's campaign team said there was "nothing utopian" about working for "ordinary, hard-working people".

In his memoir, serialised in the Times, Mr Balls reflects on a political career that took him from the commanding heights of government to crushing defeat at the general election.

He lost his seat of Morley and Outwood to Conservative Andrea Jenkyns in the 2015 vote.

'Astonishingly dysfunctional'

On his relationship with former leader Ed Miliband, he writes: "Having kept me at a distance in the run-up to the election in 2015, I think we probably only spoke twice in the whole four-week election campaign.

"That was astonishingly dysfunctional when I compare it to how Tony [Blair] and Gordon [Brown] worked."

He also opens up on Ed Miliband's 2014 conference speech, after which the then Labour leader was widely criticised for forgetting to mention immigration or the deficit.

"The omissions were a symbol of Labour not being willing to face up to the problems the country was worried about and proof that we were trying to brush difficult issues under the carpet.

"We weren't ready — and didn't deserve — to return to government. It was incredibly frustrating," he said.

His criticism of Mr Miliband's successor is stronger still.

He writes: "Refusing to listen to the electorate has never been a winning formula, any more than Jeremy Corbyn thinking the volume of the cheering from your core supporters is a reliable guide to wider public opinion.

"Caution will not win the day; but nor will Jeremy Corbyn's leftist utopian fantasy, devoid of connection to the reality of people's lives."

Mr Balls's reflections come as MPs prepare to return to Westminster - and he prepares to appear on BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing.

'A bit rich'

The Jeremy Corbyn for PM campaign tweeted that it was "sad to see" Ed Balls's comments, saying "All members of Labour should be striving for the policies that Jeremy has laid out."

"There's nothing utopian about wanting this country to work in the interests of ordinary, hard-working people. There's nothing fantastical about believing in a system where people are treated as equal."

It was "a bit rich for a man who lost the support of the country at large - and even the voters in his own seat - to lecture on being 'in touch'," it added.

"It's worrying that a former shadow chancellor of the exchequer should feel that rail nationalisation, energy democracy and clamping down on tax avoidance is a leftist utopian fantasy."

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