I’ve voted for the candidate who has brought change for the good

22nd September, 2010 8:52 am

Ed BallsBy Johanna Baxter

Over the past weeks of the leadership election I’ve increasingly been reminded of a song from a musical; “It’s not about aptitude, it’s the way you’re viewed”

Whilst it’s right that we choose a leader who can gather popular appeal we ignore their aptitude at our peril.

And the candidate who has been defying gravity in this election is Ed Balls.

At the start of the campaign he was the one who everyone deemed ‘Wicked’. But as the weeks have past and members up and down the country have got to meet him he’s won them, and a number of MPs who were committed to other candidates, over.

I was on tour with Ed in Scotland – he started his national tour in the Labour Club in my home town of Saltcoats. Members there, including retired MP for Cunninghame South David Lambie, rightly have high expectations of their elected representatives. To command their respect was a pretty impressive sight and it was his incredible knowledge and passion that did it.

He worked tirelessly the entire time I was with him and has done throughout the whole campaign – setting the agenda on the economy, talking to members about their priorities, setting out an alternative for the cuts that will hit the poorest in our society hardest and campaigning with the CWU to keep our post offices public. He doesn’t just talk politics – he does it all day long.

It’s notable that his abilities are never questioned. Paul Routledge even said in the Mirror that if this election was determined by talent alone Ed Balls would be the winner.

But if you think he is a tin man, without feeling or personality, you’d be wrong – who else do you know that can slip easily from a conversation about quantitative easing or building 100,000 new homes, creating 750,000 jobs in the construction sector and giving a new jobs guarantee to baking cake castles out of Curly Wurlys, and playing the drums for the kids whose local school he’s visiting?

When we were on tour it wasn’t just the national politics that mattered – he made time for individual members too; sending personal thank you notes to people who had helped, campaigning for better gritting of roads in Liberton in the Edinburgh South by-election and nearly missing a Newsnight interview so that I could treat him to the best fish supper the West Coast had to offer.

There may not be enough time left for members to see that the media have for months been telling people this is a two horse race between two brothers, which has become bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy. I know that in the end we will, I hope, unite behind the final victor.

But, stealing another line from the same show, I know that:

“Like a comet pulled from orbit, As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder, Halfway through the wood
Who can say if the leadership candidates have been changed for the better?
But because we know you, Our party has been changed for good”

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