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Is Balls the one who could damage Dave most?

June 16th, 2010

How do we rate them after last night?

The impact on the betting markets of last night’s first TV debate between the Labour leadership five has been a tightening of the David Milibrand price on Betfair although Ladbrokes reported that most money had come in for Ed Balls.

Watching the debate again this morning I’m even more convinced that the only one capable of being an effective leader of the opposition is Ed Balls. He’s sharp, shameless and a fighter.

One response last night said it all. The five were asked to say who their favourite former Labour leader was. Balls, who was Brown’s comrade in arms for so long, replied “Tony Blair”.

That must have really hurt his old boss but encapsulates how Balls is dealing with the one serious question mark about him – his linkage to Gordon.

He was the only one who you could imagine causing problems for Cameron at PMQs and the more we see of him in this contest the more human he becomes. Apart from Diane Abbott he’s the only one with a sense of humour.

David Miliband gave well thought out and often impressive responses but there is something strange about him. He doesn’t seem to have what it takes to engage – he’s almost an English version of Brown.

I couldn’t make my mind up about Andy Burnham or Ed Miliband. The former seemed to link everything to either his northern background or his experience as health secretary while the latter was highly argumentative buy not totally persuasive.

Diane Abbott touched a lot of sensitive points for many within the Labour movement and could do well on second and third preferences. Don’t write her off – the AV system could work in her favour.

PoliticalSmarkets have it at David Miliband 61%: Ed Miliband 21%: Ed Balls 8%; Andy Burnham 6%: Diance Abbott 4%.

Mike Smithson