Tuesday was a busy day for Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. Not only did he launch ‘Your Child, Your Schools, Our Future’, the government’s new White Paper on schools reform, a document which he claimed enshrined ‘a radical devolution of power to head teachers, backed up by stronger accountability, and an uncompromising approach to school improvement so every child succeeds’. He also found time to phone two Spectator journalists — in one case, repeatedly — to harangue them at length about a post on our Coffee House blog.
The post in question, by our political editor, Fraser Nelson, took strong issue with Mr Balls over his performance on Tuesday’s BBC Today programme. In the interview, the Schools Secretary had declared: ‘We have acted in the downturn, that will mean that the economy is stronger, we’ll have less unemployment, less debt…’ Which came as something of a surprise, given that Britain’s total public debt is at record levels: government debt was £775 billion last month, is forecast in the Budget to rise steadily to a staggering £1.4 trillion by 2013/14 and is then forecast to keep on rising — albeit more slowly — for at least another decade. There are no plans, anywhere, for ‘less debt’. On 24 June, Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, told the Treasury select committee that the scale of these deficits was ‘truly extraordinary’. So, given the incontrovertible facts, what was Mr Balls up to? In his Coffee House post, Fraser concluded, ‘Team Brown is adopting a new strategy: repeat a lie, as often as possible, hoping the interviewer will not stop or correct you.’ You might have thought that the Schools Secretary would have been too preoccupied with the future of our children’s education and the white paper to take umbrage at a single post.