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I am an experienced online journalist and political editor working for Trinity Mirror papers in the West Midlands and the North East, based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery at Westminster.

I understand how government, Parliament and political parties work. I am equally at home digging out stories from data, social media or interviews as I am covering major set-piece events or explaining how things work to readers.

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As Mr Balls sees it, the Heseltine proposals are partly about reversing one of the major mistakes this government has made – the abolition of the regional development agencies (RDAs), which included Advantage West Midlands based in Birmingham.

These were government agencies controlled by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills but based in the regions they served, and they worked closely with local businesses and councils. The difficulty, in the Shadow Chancellor’s opinion, is that their replacement, the Local Enterprise Partnerships, are not all up to the job.

People think I'm the ChancellorEd Balls

He said: “I think the story of the last few years is that the Treasury bounced business and [Business Secretary] Vince Cable into thinking that abolishing the RDAs was a good idea. And over the last two years Vince Cable has come to see what a deeply foolish and destructive thing that was. And that’s essentials what Heseltine says. The problem we’ve got is what has been put in its place, the local enterprise partnerships, are not at the moment really fit for purpose.

“They are too fragmented, there’s much too much variation in their quality, and most importantly they don’t really have clout.

“And Heseltine says you’ve got to give that local private public partnership voice clout.

“And that’s something we totally agree with. He doesn’t fully answer that question the report. But that’s because I don’t think George Osborne agrees. But we do.”

Industry was crying out for partnership with Government, said Mr Balls. He highlighted a visit to the MG Rover plant in Longbridge, Birmingham, where managers told him Advantage West Midlands had helped secure investment from the plant’s Chinese owners, Shanghai Automotive.

“When I went to Longbridge, and I went the day before the new MG line was opening formally with the Chinese premiere coming over, and talking to the management there, they said Advantage West Midlands played a really important role in brokering this deal to bring car production back to Longbridge by knocking heads together with local government and national government, working with the supply chain.

“They said to me, the thing that they didn’t really understand is that the government subsequently has abolished them and put nothing in their place, and who would do that again?”

Being Gordon’s right hand man isn’t my problem

Some Conservatives and Liberal Democrats argue that Ed Balls is a liability to his party, because he reminds voters of Gordon Brown’s Government.

But Mr Balls spoke out against those who suggest that because of this he lacks credibility.

“That is what the Tories are desperate to achieve but I don’t think they are going to succeed in that.

“The problem I actually have, when we have done our testing on these things, is more people think I’m the Chancellor than George Osborne. Because they see me a bit more on TV. He’s such a submarine.

“Because they see me more often, they think I’m the Chancellor. I’m really worried they might think I might embody flatlining. My biggest risk is that they’ll think I’m the person taking the economy back into double dip recession.

“The reality is the Tories want to fight the election about the past, because they are very worried now about the present, the future.

“That wasn’t the original plan. The reason they are ramping up the decibels to get to Ed [Miliband] and me in the last six months is because the economy has gone back into double dip recession.”

So will he be the Chancellor in a Labour Government after the next election?

“That is absolutely a question for the leader of the Labour Party, not for me.

“And as he said, for us to get into speculation about what we would do once we have one an election smacks of an arrogance and complacency we are not going to get into.

“But we are working really closely together.”


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Jonathan Walker Political Editor of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph, Newcastle Journal, Newcastle Chronicle and Sunday Sun.

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