'Ed Balls is normally seen as someone who came to power as a protege of Gordon Brown's. Having spent the last few weeks reading the latest Labour memoirs and biographies, I'm beginning to wonder whether it might not be make more sense to view the relationship the other way round.
In their biography, Brown at 10 (which I've written about in more detail here), Anthony Seldon and Guy Lodge describe the Balls-Brown relationship as one that was "far more complex" than one between politician and powerful lieutenant.
In their time at the Treasury together, as their political journeys had developed, they had become increasingly co-dependent. "Ed compensated for Gordon's lack of intellectual confidence by being decisive," says one long-standing colleague. "His all-encompassing certainty became a crutch for Brown in his own intellectual and psychological insecurities." In the bitter atmosphere of the Blair years, that had led to a dangerous, spiralling dynamic. Brown "contracted out to Balls his evaluation of people", says one Treasury official, and Balls thought [Tony] Blair little better than an imbecile. In those difficult years while Brown waited desperately for power, Balls had protected him from attacks, and Brown remained deeply grateful.There are plenty of anecdotes in the book illustrating Balls's influence over Brown and one of the most telling relates to the moment when Brown became prime minister. Brown agonised about whether to make Balls chancellor, but was worried about antagonising the Blairites. Balls then planted a story in the Daily Mail saying he would not be getting the job. Brown was cross. But Balls told Seldon and Lodge: "I decided to do so to make the decision easier for him."'
Fascinating and scary, Ed Balls was to a degree making economic decisions not Gordon Brown. If in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King then what about the one-eyed man's right-hand man?