ENG: Edward Michael Balls, (born 25 February 1967) is a British Labour politician, who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Morley and Outwood since 2010, and is the current Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. From 2005 to 2010, he was the MP for Normanton and he served in the Cabinet from 2007 to 2010.
Balls was educated at Keble College, Oxford, where he gained a First in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (graduating ahead of David Cameron), and later Harvard, where he was a Kennedy Scholar specialising in Economics. Balls went on to work as leader writer for the Financial Times for several years before becoming an economic adviser to Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown in 1994, going on to become Chairman of HM Treasury's Council of Economic Advisers upon Brown becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1997. He remained in that position until 2004, when he resigned in order to stand for Parliament, being elected in 2005. In June 2007, upon Brown becoming Prime Minister, Balls was promoted to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, a position he held until May 2010. Balls then briefly served as Shadow Home Secretary after unsuccessfully standing to become Labour Leader, before being appointed as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2011.
Balls is married to current Shadow Home Secretary and fellow Labour MP Yvette Cooper, and in 2008 they became the first married couple to serve together in a British Cabinet.
Balls' father is the zoologist Michael Balls.
Balls was born in Norwich and educated at Bawburgh Primary School in Norwich, Crossdale Drive Primary School in Nottinghamshire, and then the private all-boys Nottingham High School, where he played the violin. He went on to attend attended Keble College, Oxford, where he gained a first class honours degree, before attending Harvard University as a Kennedy Scholar.
Balls joined the Labour Party when he was 16 years old. Whilst at Oxford he was an active member of the Labour Club, but also signed up to the Conservative Association, "because they used to book top-flight political speakers, and only members were allowed to attend their lectures" according to friends. Whilst at Oxford he was a founding member of the all-male drinking club, The Steamers.
He joined the Financial Times as a writer in 1990 until his appointment as an economic adviser to Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown in 1994. When Labour won the 1997 general election, Brown became Chancellor and Balls continued to work as an economic adviser to him.
He went on to serve as Chairman of HM Treasury's Council of Economic Advisers,
While he was chief economic adviser to the Treasury, Balls attended the Bilderberg annual conference of politicians, financiers and businessmen in 2001 and 2003, and returned to the United Kingdom on Conrad Black's private jet on both occasions. In 2010 when after details were reported in the press, Balls commented, "It saved the taxpayer the cost of a plane fare and on both occasions I declared it at the time to the permanent secretary in the normal way."
In July 2004, Balls was selected to stand as Labour and Co-operative candidate for the parliamentary seat of Normanton in West Yorkshire, a Labour stronghold whose MP, Bill O'Brien, was retiring. He stepped down as chief economic adviser to the Treasury, but was given a position at the Smith Institute, a political think tank. HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office confirmed that "the normal and proper procedures were followed."
Member of Parliament
In the 2005 general election, he was elected MP for Normanton with a majority of 10,002 and 51.2% of the vote. After the Boundary Commission proposed boundary changes which would abolish the constituency, Balls ran a campaign, in connection with the local newspaper the Wakefield Express, to save the seat and, together with the three other Wakefield MPs (his wife Yvette Cooper, Mary Creagh and Jon Trickett), fought an unsuccessful High Court challenge against the Boundary Commission's proposals.
In March 2007 he was selected to be the Labour Party candidate for the new Morley and Outwood constituency, which contains parts of the abolished Normanton and Morley and Rothwell constituencies.
Balls became Economic Secretary to the Treasury, a junior ministerial position in HM Treasury, in the government reshuffle of May 2006.
When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister on 27 Jun 2007, Balls was promoted to Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families.
In October 2008, Balls announced that the government had decided to scrap SATs tests for 14-year-olds, a move which was broadly welcomed by teachers, parent groups and opposition MPs. The decision to continue with SATs tests for 11-year-olds was described by head teachers' leader Mick Brookes as a missed opportunity.
Balls sponsored the Children, Schools and Families Bill which had its first reading on 19 November 2009. Part of the proposed legislation will see regulation of parents who home educate their children in England, introduced in response to the Badman Review, with annual inspections to determine quality of education and welfare of the child. Home educators across the UK petitioned their MPs to remove the proposed legislation.
Several parts of the bill, including the proposed register for home educators, and compulsory sex education lessons, were abandoned as they had failed to gain cross party support prior to the pending May 2010 election.
Labour leadership election
At the 2010 general election, Balls narrowly won the newly-created Morley and Outwood seat with 37.6% of the vote. The general election resulted in a hung parliament, with the Conservatives having the most votes and seats, but no overall majority.
Several days after the election, on 11 May, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats announced that they would form a coalition government, shortly after Gordon Brown resigned as both Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party.
Balls announced, in Nottingham, on 19 May 2010 that he was standing in the election to replace Brown. Balls was the third candidate to secure the minimum of 33 nominations from members of the Parliamentary Labour Party in order to enter the leadership race. The other contenders were former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, former Health Secretary Andy Burnham, backbencher Diane Abbott and former Energy Secretary Ed Miliband, who would go on to win.
New Labour Leader Ed Miliband appointed Balls Shadow Home Secretary on 8 October 2010, a job he held until 20 January 2011, when the resignation of Alan Johnson due to "personal reasons" led Miliband to announce Balls as Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. As Shadow Chancellor, Balls regularly appears with Miliband at joint press conferences relating to Labour policy. Together with Miliband, Balls has promoted a "five-point plan for jobs and growth" since he took office as Shadow Chancellor.
The plan is described as aimed at helping the UK economy, and involves a bonus tax on banks, bringing forward long-term investment, cutting VAT to 17.5%, cutting VAT on home improvements to 5% for one year, and instigating a one year national insurance break.
Balls has played a prominent role in the Fabian Society, the think tank and political society founded in 1884 which helped to found the Labour Party in 1900. In 1992 he authored a Fabian pamphlet advocating Bank of England independence, a policy that was swiftly enacted when Gordon Brown became Chancellor in 1997.
Balls was elected Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society for 2006 and Chair of the Fabian Society for 2007. As Vice-Chair of the Fabian Society, he launched the Fabian Life Chances Commission report in April 2006 and opened the Society's Next Decade lecture series in November 2006, arguing for closer European cooperation on the environment.
Balls has been a central figure in New Labour's economic reform agenda. He and Gordon Brown have differed from the Blairites in being keen to stress their roots in Labour party intellectual traditions such as Fabianism and the co-operative movement as well as their modernising credentials in policy and electoral terms. In a New Statesman interview in March 2006, Martin Bright writes that Balls "says the use of the term 'socialist' is less of a problem for his generation than it has been for older politicians like Blair and Brown, who remain bruised by the ideological warfare of the 1970s and 1980s".
"When I was at college, the economic system in eastern Europe was crumbling. We didn't have to ask the question of whether we should adopt a globally integrated, market-based model. For me, it is now a question of what values you have. Socialism, as represented by the Labour Party, the Fabian Society, the Co-operative movement, is a tradition I can be proud of", said Balls.
He married Yvette Cooper MP, who later became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in Eastbourne on 10 January 1998. Cooper is Member of Parliament for Morley & Outwood's neighbouring constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford. They have three children. Cooper and Balls were the first married couple to serve together in the British cabinet.
In 2010 Balls was fined £60 and given three points on his licence for talking on his mobile telephone whilst driving.
Ed Balls is a fan of Norwich City.
In September 2010, the British Stammering Association announced that Balls had become a patron of the Association. Its Chief. Executive, Norbert Lieckfeldt, paid tribute to him for having been very public in his declaration that he has at times struggled with his speech.