Ex-minister backs Balls in Labour leadership contest

FORMER MP and Old Knebworth resident Barbara Follett has revealed she is supporting ex-Schools Secretary Ed Balls’ campaign to become the next leader of the Labour Party.

Mrs Follett, who stood down as Stevenage MP at the General Election, told the Welwyn Hatfield Times she thought that all five leadership candidates were “very good”.

However, the former tourism minister said that Mr Balls had won her backing because of his economic credentials.

Speaking from her holiday home in Antigua, Mrs Follett said: “He [Balls] has got one of the best economic minds I have ever come across and we need somebody with a good economic mind in the current climate.”

The 67-year-old, who first won the Stevenage seat in 1997, continued: “He is also a very good man who has a marvellous family.

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“He is very rounded. He cooks, he plays a mean game of rounders; I know him very well.”

Mr Balls, 43, entered Parliament in 2005, after serving as an economic adviser to the then Chancellor Gordon Brown.

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The four other candidates are former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, 44, his younger brother Ed, 40, ex-Health Secretary Andy Burnham, 40, and left-wing rebel backbencher Diane Abbott, 57.

Voting takes place between August 16 and September 22.

Those eligible to vote include Labour MPs, MEPs, party members and members of affiliated organisations, such as trade unions.

The winner of the ballot will be announced when the Labour Party conference opens in Manchester on September 25.

The leadership contest was triggered when Mr Brown stood down as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party following last month’s General Election.

Harriet Harman will serve as the acting leader of the party until Mr Brown’s successor is chosen.

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