Peter Hoskin

Your five-point guide to the Ed Balls files

Intrigue, hilarious intrigue this morning, as the Telegraph releases a bunch of documents that clarify just how far the Brownites went to oust Tony Blair. They are, it is said, from the personal files of Ed Balls, and they are copious in both quantity and variety. From straightforward poll results to 31-page reports on how Brown is a Volvo not a BMW, this is a real insight into the numerous pathologies of party and government. Here’s my five-point overview:

i) The leadership coup in waiting. It starts only two months after the 2005 general election, and Balls’ own ascent to Parliament, with a memo setting out the structure of Brown’s leadership campaign team. And it soon crescendos. A note from Brown suggests that party reform is a “behind the scenes issue we should be encouraging” at Labour shin-digs. “We could persuade people,” he adds euphemistically, “to take interest in pushing this as shorthand for change.” And he even sifts around for celebrity “figureheads” to rally support, including JK Rowling, Richard Curtis and — of course! — Big Brother’s Davina McCall. Writing on the day of a series of thwarted terror attacks in London, Balls asks bluntly, “who is GB?”

ii) Polishing Brown. Much text and brainpower is expended on making Brown electable, presentationally as well as politically. The key document, in this regard, is Deborah Mattinson’s “Project Volvo” report, which contrasts her boss’s — ahem — “integrity” and “steadfastness” with David Cameron’s verve and youthful energy. Brown “needs more likeablity,” it suggests, adding that he should “use Richard and Judy mode at all times.” He ought to be briefed on “popular culture/current trends”. And David Cameron should be attacked, by “others, not GB,” for his “posh background”. The idea of  background baiting crops up elsewhere.

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