Edward Michael Balls, known as Ed Balls, (born 25 February 1967) is a British Labour politician, who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 2005, currently for Morley and Outwood, and is the current Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Educated at Oxford University, where he gained a first in PPE graduating ahead of David Cameron, and Harvard where he was a Kennedy Scholar, he specialised in Economics. Balls worked as a leader writer for the Financial Times. Although he was not elected to Parliament until 2005, he was an economic adviser to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown from 1994. From June 2007 to May 2010, Balls served as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
Balls became Shadow Home Secretary after unsuccessfully running to become Labour Leader, before becoming Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2011.
Balls is married to Yvette Cooper, and together they were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.
Early lifeBalls's father is the zoologist Michael Balls. Balls was born in Norwich, Norfolk and educated at Bawburgh Primary School near Norwich, Crossdale Drive Primary School in Keyworth, Nottinghamshire, and then the private all-boys Nottingham High School, where he played the violin.
Balls joined the Labour Party when he was 16 years old. Whilst at Oxford he was an active member of the Labour Club, but also signed up to the Conservative Association according to friends "because they used to book top-flight political speakers, and only members were allowed to attend their lectures".
EconomistHis career began as a writer at the Financial Times (1990–94) before his appointment as an economic adviser to shadow chancellor Gordon Brown (1994–97).
When Labour won the general election of 1997, Brown became Chancellor and Balls continued to work as an economic adviser to him. He went on to serve as chief economic adviser to HM Treasury from 1999 to 2004, in which post he was once named the 'most powerful unelected person in Britain'.
While he was chief economic adviser to the Treasury, Balls attended the Bilderberg annual conference of politicians, financiers and businessmen in 2001 and 2003, and returned to the United Kingdom on Conrad Black's private jet on both occasions. In 2010 when after details were reported in the press, Balls commented, "It saved the taxpayer the cost of a plane fare and on both occasions I declared it at the time to the permanent secretary in the normal way."
In July 2004, Balls was selected to stand as Labour and Co-operative candidate for the parliamentary seat of Normanton in West Yorkshire, a Labour stronghold whose MP, Bill O'Brien, was retiring. He stepped down as chief economic adviser to the Treasury, but was given a position at the Smith Institute, a political think tank. HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office confirmed that "the normal and proper procedures were followed."
Member of ParliamentIn the 2005 general election he was elected MP for Normanton with a majority of 10,002 and 51.2% of the vote. After the Boundary Commission proposed boundary changes which would abolish the constituency, Balls ran a campaign, in connection with the local newspaper the Wakefield Express, to save the seat and, together with the three other Wakefield MPs (his wife Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Jon Trickett), fought an unsuccessful High Court challenge against the Boundary Commission's proposals.
In March 2007 he was selected to be the Labour Party candidate for the new Morley and Outwood constituency, which contains parts of the abolished Normanton and Morley and Rothwell constituencies.
Ministerial careerBalls became Economic Secretary to the Treasury, a junior ministerial position in HM Treasury, in the government reshuffle of May 2006. When Gordon Brown became prime minister on 27 June 2007, Balls was promoted to Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
In October 2008, Balls announced that the government had decided to scrap SATs tests for 14-year-olds, a move which was broadly welcomed by teachers, parent groups and opposition MPs. However, the decision to continue with SATs tests for 11-year-olds was described by Head teachers' leader Mick Brookes as a missed opportunity.
Political activitiesBalls has played a prominent role in the Fabian Society, the think tank and political society founded in 1884 which helped to found the Labour Party in 1900. In 1992 he authored a Fabian pamphlet advocating Bank of England independence, a policy that was swiftly enacted when Gordon Brown became Chancellor in 1997.
Balls was elected Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society for 2006 and Chair of the Fabian Society for 2007. As Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society, he launched the Fabian Life Chances Commission report in April 2006 and opened the Society's Next Decade lecture series in November 2006, arguing for closer European cooperation on the environment.
Balls has been a central figure in New Labour's economic reform agenda. But he and Gordon Brown have differed from the Blairites in being keen to stress their roots in Labour party intellectual traditions such as Fabianism and the co-operative movement as well as their modernising credentials in policy and electoral terms. In a New Statesman interview in March 2006, Martin Bright writes that Balls "says the use of the term "socialist" is less of a problem for his generation than it has been for older politicians like Blair and Brown, who remain bruised by the ideological warfare of the 1970s and 1980s".
"When I was at college, the economic system in eastern Europe was crumbling. We didn't have to ask the question of whether we should adopt a globally integrated, market-based model. For me, it is now a question of what values you have. Socialism, as represented by the Labour Party, the Fabian Society, the Co-operative movement, is a tradition I can be proud of", Balls told the New Statesman.
Children, Schools and Families BillBalls sponsored the Children, Schools and Families Bill which had its first reading on 19 November 2009. Part of the proposed legislation will see regulation of parents who home educate their children in England, introduced in response to the Badman Review, with annual inspections to determine quality of education and welfare of the child. Home educators across the UK petitioned their MPs to remove the proposed legislation.
Several parts of the bill, including the proposed register for home educators, and compulsory sex education lessons, were abandoned as they had failed to gain cross party support prior to the pending May 2010 election.
Allegations over allowancesIn September 2007, with his wife Yvette Cooper, he was accused by Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP of "breaking the spirit of Commons rules" by using MPs' allowances to help pay for a £655,000 home in north London. Balls and his wife bought a four-bed house in Stoke Newington, north London, and registered this as their second home (rather than their home in Castleford, West Yorkshire) in order to qualify for up to £44,000 a year to subsidise a reported £438,000 mortgage under the Commons Additional Costs Allowance, of which they claimed £24,400. This is despite both spouses working in London full-time and their children attending local London schools. Through a spokesman, Balls and Cooper asserted that "The whole family travel between their Yorkshire home and London each week when Parliament is sitting. As they are all in London during the week, their children have always attended the nearest school to their London house."
Additional allegations have been made about Balls' and his wife's "flipping" of their second home three times within the space of two years.
2010 general electionAt the 2010 general election, Balls narrowly won the newly created Morley and Outwood seat with 37.6% of the vote. The election ended in a hung parliament, with the Tories having the most votes and seats, but no party having an overall majority.
2010 Labour Party leadership election
|The Right Honourable Ed Balls |
Leader of the Labour Party
|Election date |
announced 25 September 2010
|Opponent(s)||Diane Abbott |
|Incumbent||Harriet Harman (pro tempore)|
Personal lifeHe married Yvette Cooper MP, who later became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in Eastbourne on 10 January 1998. Cooper is Member of Parliament for Morley & Outwood's neighbouring constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford. They have three children. Cooper and Balls were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.
In 2010 Balls was fined £60 and given three points on his licence for talking on his mobile telephone whilst driving.
Ed Balls is a fan of Norwich City.