Alan Johnson, Shadow Chancellor, resigned yesterday in order to spend more time with his family. This is one of the rare instances where “spending more time” with one’s family means precisely that. I’ve written positively about Johnson in the past, and argued that he should have challenged Gordon Brown back in the spring and summer of 2009 for the Labour Party leadership. Furthermore, it’s not a good sign for Ed Miliband to reshuffle his front bench team only a few months into the job. While Labour are doing very well in the polls at present, there’s enough evidence to suggest that this is primarily due to opposition to the coalition than it is for anything either Ed Miliband or Labour are offering (which is something I hope to write further on if I find the time).
However, I view this reshuffle as a positive step for Labour. Johnson was out of his depth as Shadow Chancellor; given the slash and burn policy of the Tories and partners, the opposition require a strong, knowledgeable voice to challenge the Government. Ed Balls is that person. It’s sound rational politics for the opposition to remain vague on its own plans while exploiting the unpopularity of the Government’s policies, but at least with Balls in Labour might finally develop a credible alternative. At least they’ve found a strong voice.