James Forsyth

Three blows to Balls

Three blows to Balls
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Ed Balls faces his own trio of troubles this Sunday. First, there’s Charles Clarke’s not so coded call for him to resign. Then, there is the overwhelming decision by the National Association of Head Teachers to boycott Sats for 11 year-olds despite a personal appeal from Balls not to just before the vote at their conference. Finally, and most worryingly for him, there’s the ongoing row about whether he and his junior minister Jim Knight have been straight with the Commons about last summer’s Sats disaster. As the Sunday Times reports:

“On at least three occasions, including on the floor of the Commons, Balls and Jim Knight, his junior minister, accused Ken Boston, head of the former exams watchdog, of downplaying the scale of the problem in a meeting last June.

Only after the release of Lord Sutherland’s official report into the debacle, which disrupted the education of tens of thousands of children, did Knight quietly admit that Boston had not even been present at the meeting.”

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“Both Balls and Knight claimed to have pressed Boston and other officials repeatedly, but to have been fobbed off with blithe reassurances that any problems were well under control.

It has now emerged, however, that what Balls called his sustained pressure on Boston consisted of only one face-to-face meeting, at which Sats were mentioned only briefly.”

If the Speaker wanted to demonstrate that he truly is independent, he would summon Balls and Knight to the House to explain whether or not they misled the Commons. This is the most serious charge that can be made against a Minister and when it is, it is imperative that it is cleared up one way or the other.

Written byJames Forsyth

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

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