Ed Miliband moved to assert control over new shadow chancellor Ed Balls yesterday after the shock resignation of Alan Johnson.
Labour announced that Balls will move his office into the suite of rooms occupied by the party leader, forcing the pair to work together closely on policy and crucial announcements.
The decision was aimed at killing speculation that the powerful Balls would not be able to resist building his own fiefdom based on a dominance of economic policy, echoing the falling-out between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.
Balls and Miliband will work within yards of each other, in the same corridor overlooking the Thames. Balls and his team will also liaise closely with Miliband’s key staff, including a revamped media team led by Tom Baldwin.
A smiling Johnson, 60, left his home in Hull yesterday looking astonishingly relaxed for a man whose wife has reportedly had an affair with his former police protection officer, causing him to resign to cope with the pressures.
The agony of their broken marriage showed on the face of his estranged wife as she left their other home in London yesterday morning.
Laura Johnson, 47, looked haggard and distressed as she took her son to school just before 9am. She returned to the house soon after and said: “I’ve got no comment to make.”
Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman described Johnson’s resignation as a “real loss”. Asked on BBC television about the reported affair, she said: “I can’t say anything about that. If there’s any comment to be made about a police officer, I think that comment will have to come from the police.”
Johnson on Thursday stonewalled journalists as he left a meeting with members of his local Labour party, declining to comment further on his family reasons for quitting the shadow cabinet. His former bodyguard Paul Rice is expected to face instant dismissal from the Met if allegations of serious misconduct are proven.
Scotland Yard has announced an inquiry by its internal corruption unit, the directorate of professional standards.
A decision to suspend the officer was expected to be announced soon. The officer was still in a protection role yesterday morning but it was not clear if this was with the former home secretary. Rice had worked for Johnson for more than a year when he was in government.
Finance experts were pleased to see the return of Balls to an economic brief. Howard Archer of financial analysis firm Global Insight said: “I believe that the City had a pretty favourable opinion of him as City Minister, and he certainly does command a lot of respect as an economist.” London Evening Standard