Gordon MacMillan,  UK Politics

Ed Balls to announce he will stand tomorrow

Sky News is reporting that Ed Balls will announce he will stand against David and Ed Miliband for the Labour Leadership tomorrow.

Balls will be backed (it is widely expected) by the Unite union. Charlie Whelan, political director of Unite and a good friend, is said to have been urging Balls to stand.

The former Children’s Secretay, and Gordon Brown’s closest former ally, and the two Milibands could be joined by a fourth (and maybe) final candidate in Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary. It would be good to see him enter the race to ensure that it is a real contest.

It follows The Guardian breaking the news lastnight that Jon Cruddas was ruling himself out of the race, which Neil D blogged about as it happened. Cruddas is setting himself up for a role as possible party chairman. That would make perfect sense with his spot on views about the need to reconnect with the party at its roots and build there.

“Those results, in an election that was supposed to deliver a hammer blow to the Labour party, made me more determined than ever to help create a national party rooted in the culture of organising that these local examples signify. Refocusing the party machine, turning the party outwards to the communities we seek to represent, rebuilding our internal democracy and ending the stranglehold of unelected officials are urgent and immediate tasks.”

As the news about Balls set to enter the race breaks, the BBC has been reporting the comments of another Labour MP, John McDonnell. He’s been expressing his unhappiness that he will not be able to stand because he won’t win the nominations of 33 MPs, which is required under party rules.

He has (again — he wanted to stand against Gordon Brown in 2007) accused the party of organising a “discredited” leadership contest. I don’t agree with much that McDonnell has to say and that goes for the race being discredited.

But if McDonnell wants to stand he should be allowed to.  The bar is set pretty high at 33 MPs. He isn’t going to win despite his protestations that  “rank and file” Labour members”  are excluded from choosing him although he should be able to run.

That said if it ends up with just four candidates in the race that gives Labour plenty of scope for debate and the chance to renew the party, and as Cruddas says, take it outwards. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

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