Page last updated at 15:20 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 16:20 UK

Ed Balls announces he will stand for Labour leader

Balls: 'I'm going to put my name in'

Ed Balls has pledged to "listen first" after confirming his intention to stand for the leadership of the Labour Party.

The ex-schools secretary said he wanted to "hear what the public say" and said he recognised there were concerns on immigration and tuition fees.

It was not about "Blair versus Brown" or "old Labour versus new Labour".

David and Ed Miliband are also standing in the contest. Left-wing MP John McDonnell wants to stand - but says the process is "stitched up".

'Brave things'

Mr Balls said he recognised that in some constituencies immigration had been an issue and some felt tuition fees "had been a barrier" to going to university - he said some people did not know about the points system introduced for economic migrants.

"We've got to listen first, hear what the public say, that's going to be at the centrepiece of my campaign," he said.

Mr Balls was Mr Brown's chief economics adviser for 10 years before becoming an MP in 2005 and being promoted to schools secretary two years later, when Mr Brown became prime minister.

MPs/members annoyed about short nominations timetable: I have to say I agree. Need broadest possible choice & time for MPs to decide&consult
Ed Miliband

He said the former PM had made "the right decisions to get us through" economic difficulties and said he was "proud" of his record in government and he thought people would "look back and say Gordon did some really brave things".

"I don't think people are going to see this (contest) through the old prism of Blair and Brown, or of old or new Labour, I think that's the past really - what people want to know is, are we in touch with the public, are we on their side, do we understand their concerns?"

He said he had spoken to Mr Brown at the weekend, but he was remaining neutral in the contest: "I told him I was going to stand and he said: 'Good luck, go for it'."

Mr Balls was backed by former schools minister Vernon Coaker at the launch - and is also being supported by Michael Dugher, Mr Brown's former spokesman and new MP for Barnsley East, and Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West.

Nominations timetable

He said the fact that he was now in a marginal seat - after his majority was cut on a 9.3% swing to the Tories - would not affect his bid: "The Conservatives threw everything they could at me, money and some pretty abusive stuff - I won."

Pressed on what policy differences there were between him and the Miliband brothers, Mr Balls said he was "not going to fall into the trap.. of making this a bitter and divisive fight".

He said there would be some differences and mentioned voting reform, but added: "We've been friends and colleagues for a long period of time... Whoever wins this I will back them 110% because I think the unity of the Labour Party is vital and this generation has got a massive responsibility."

McDonnell to stand in leadership battle

There has been some concern about the tight timetable for leadership candidates to gather the 33 MPs' signatures necessary to get on the ballot paper - something they must do by Thursday 27 May. The winner will not be announced until 25 September.

Ed Miliband wrote on his Twitter page "MPs/members annoyed about short nominations timetable: I have to say I agree. Need broadest possible choice & time for MPs to decide&consult".

John McDonnell - who said on Wednesday he would try to get on the ballot paper but the timetable made it "almost impossible" - has argued that the process has been "stitched up from the start".

Mr Balls told the BBC it was important that new MPs were given the time to think about their choice but said it was "not sensible" to criticise the rules.

"The nomination period was shorter than I expected but I will work with that," he said.

'Stitched up'

Hayes and Harlington MP Mr McDonnell wanted to stand against Gordon Brown for the leadership in 2007 but did not get enough nominations for MPs. He has criticised the process which he says is "stitched up from the start" and "renders it almost impossible for me to get on the ballot paper".

In a speech to the Public and Commercial Services Union's annual conference in Brighton on Wednesday, he confirmed he would stand, if he can get the nominations.

He said if only the Miliband brothers and Mr Balls stood, the contest would amount to "the sons of Blair versus the son of Gordon Brown".

"All of the other candidates so far are all from the New Labour stable. They are all implicated in the policies that basically lost us the last election," he said.

"I refuse to vote for things like privatisation of public services, the war in Iraq. I'm in favour of redistribution of wealth through the tax system."

Influential backbencher Jon Cruddas - who has ruled himself out of the leadership race - has also said he did not think candidates had long enough to secure nominations.

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