James Forsyth

Balls’ ambition

Balls' ambition
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Everyone in Westminster expects that when there is a Labour leadership election, Ed Balls will stand. It is tempting to see Balls as a bit of a joke: he’s bad on TV, has been comprehensively out manoeuvred in his brief by Michael Gove and has had a fair few photo-op disasters, the short shorts snap still causes much amusement in the village. But as John Rentoul points out in his profile of Balls, his positioning has been astute—he is always slightly to the left of the New Labour consensus. Although, the economic disaster has, to put it mildly, rather soured Ball’s pitch for the leadership

Rentoul’s profile is worth reading in full. It is crammed full of revealing info—for instance, it was Balls who came up with the ‘no time for a novice line’ that helped destroy his rival David Miliband’s leadership ambitions—and anecdotes. One illustrates how quickly Balls turned into a Brown factionist.

“Balls complained about how “cliquey” the Brown operation was and the difficult nature of his working style. A little later, Balls dined with his companion again. “How is the cliquishness?” Balls bristled: “Well, some people say that about Gordon, but it is not true.”

Another relates to one of those stories that one would have expected to gain far more traction than it has, Ed Balls dressing up in a Nazi uniform at university. (In what must count as one of the worst explanations ever, one of his best men and university friends said Balls didn’t want to offend the people who had given him the Nazi outfit). It does seem odd that the Cameron, Osborne, Boris Bullingdon photos attract more attention than those of Balls in a Nazi uniform.

P.S. Rentoul reports that Balls is worried about another set of photos: “Balls is said to have expressed relief that the Mail has not got hold of other pictures, “that must exist”, of him in a male swimsuit competition.”

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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