'Bungling Balls' has destroyed chances of leading Labour after lacklustre response to Osborne's Autumn statement, claims fellow opposition MP Bassetlaw MP John Mann said any speculation over a leadership challenge by Ed Balls is 'dead and buried'
00:51 GMT, 9 December 2012
Ed Balls’s hopes of replacing Ed Miliband as Labour leader have been ‘buried’ by his bungled Commons onslaught on George Osborne last week, a Labour MP claimed last night.
Bassetlaw MP John Mann said the Shadow Chancellor’s lacklustre response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement plans to slash welfare and raise taxes for the well-off had damaged Mr Balls’s leadership prospects – and made Mr Miliband’s position secure.
Mr Mann spoke out amid claims that Mr Balls and his supporters have given up hope that either he or wife, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, could succeed Mr Miliband.
Poor performance: Bassetlaw MP John Mann, left, accused the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, right, of giving a lacklustre response to Osborne's Autumn Statement plans to cut welfare
George Osborne said the plans in his Autumn Statement would return 'fairness' to the benefits system
Instead, they reportedly plan to throw their support behind Mr Balls’s deputy, rising Labour star Rachel Reeves, in an attempt to defeat Mr Miliband’s protege, Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna, said to be admired by Mr Balls’s Blairite foe, Lord Mandelson.
Mr Mann told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Any speculation that Ed Balls might launch a leadership challenge to Ed Miliband is dead and buried.
It is believed unlikely that Ed Balls, right, will now challenge Ed Miliband, left, for the Labour leadership
‘Ed Balls failed to defeat Osborne when Osborne was by far the most vulnerable Cabinet member.
'There was a time when it was felt Ed Miliband was running to catch up with Ed Balls. That’s reversed in the past year.
'What happened last week crystallises that change.’
And a Labour frontbencher added: ‘The Balls brand was built on an aura of invincibility.
'But against Osborne last week, he was as nimble as an arthritic elephant.
'He’s been holed below the waterline by one speech.’
Labour politicians also criticised Mr Balls for claiming his childhood stammer was to blame for fluffing his lines at the start of his Commons reply to Mr Osborne.
A former Labour Cabinet Minister said: ‘Everyone admires the way Ed has struggled to overcome his stammer.
'But to blame it for making a poor speech is feeble.’
Another Labour grandee said: ‘Ed’s response failed because he had no message and no narrative.
'If the Tories had barracked him because of his stammer, it would have been unacceptable, but they didn’t. He dishes it out and he must learn how to take it.’