Labour leader Ed Miliband has insisted there would be no change in his party’s economic policy after he appointed Ed Balls to take over as shadow chancellor.
Amid suggestions Mr Balls may drag Labour to the left, Mr Miliband stressed that there would be no change to the party’s economic direction.
Mr Balls, a fierce ally of former prime minister Gordon Brown, has questioned Labour’s deficit reduction plans in the past, suggesting they should be less aggressive.
But Mr Miliband said: “Ed brings great expertise to this role and I look forward to working with him on the direction Alan and I have set out. Economic policy is unchanged. Actually Ed and I have similar views.”
The Tories and Liberal Democrats said Mr Balls’s appointment marked a return to strength for Mr Brown’s old guard.
Conservative Party deputy chairman Michael Fallon said: “It beggars belief that Ed Balls has been appointed as shadow chancellor of the Exchequer. The man who is responsible for Britain’s economic mess has returned. The Labour Party has learnt nothing and is now led entirely by Gordon Brown’s old team.”
Stephen Williams, co-chair of the Lib Dem Parliamentary Treasury Committee, accused Mr Balls of being a “deficit enthusiast”.
Mr Johnson’s abilities as shadow chancellor had been repeatedly called into doubt by opponents – something he helped encourage by saying he needed to buy a primer on economics. But Mr Miliband denied that Mr Johnson had been the wrong choice for shadow chancellor in the first place.
“No, Alan Johnson was the right person for the job. He’s had to stand down for personal reasons, nothing to do with the job,” he said.
A Labour reshuffle will see Yvette Cooper, Mr Balls’ wife, take over from him as shadow home secretary. Douglas Alexander becomes shadow foreign secretary, Liam Byrne will be shadow work and pensions secretary and Ms Jowell takes over as shadow Cabinet Office minister.