George Osborne

How I learnt to love Ed Balls

Ed Balls (Getty Images)

The co-host of my new podcast once threatened to sue me for libel. For my part, I did everything I could to put him on the dole. If we’d lived in Tudor times we’d probably have tried to get each other’s heads chopped off. Now Thursdays will be spent with Ed Balls, as we record our weekly show Political Currency. Earlier this summer he was dancing at my wedding. I told him I thought it was an extraordinary turn of events when I recall the ferocity of our old debates. ‘Remember how we hated each other, Ed?’ He corrected me. ‘That’s not true. You and Gordon Brown hated each other. David Cameron and I never liked each other. But you and I always had mutual respect.’ He’s right. There are few people whose insights into economics and politics I’d rate higher, even though we still often disagree. When people want to criticise our show, they say we’re ‘centrist dads’. It’s meant as an insult, apparently. I’m not sure why. Do we want the world run by extremist bachelors?

Tuesday morning, and a group of MPs and peers come to see our latest British Museum exhibition. The director has just resigned so, as chair, I step in to play host. It’s a spectacular, brave show about China in the 19th century that confronts the rebellions and wars which made for one of the most difficult periods in its history. The exhibition has been hugely popular, with tens of thousands of visitors, including many young Chinese. It’s a story no other museum in the world would have the collection or the courage to tell, and a reminder that the BM is more relevant than ever.

One exhibit is a painting, lent by the King, of a Pekinese puppy taken after the British army sacked the Summer Palace, and presented to Queen Victoria.

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