Ed balls

Enjoyable and informative but where’s the drama? Political Currency reviewed

The first episode of George Osborne and Ed Balls’s new podcast, Political Currency, opened with an old clip of the pair arguing across the despatch box. Osborne had described his latest Budget as ‘steady as she goes’ and Balls was having none of it. ‘What kind of ship does he think he’s on, the Titanic?’ If producers hoped that the duo would bring something of this, er, biting dynamic to their podcast, they were in for a surprise. The opening number saw little in the way of sparring between the former opponents. Seated in a studio in east London, they spent most of the time doing what so many in

The only way is Essex for cash strapped Commons

If politics is show business for ugly people, then parliament is the stage on which they shine. And since 2014 – when the first major Hollywood film was shot at the Palace of Westminster – Commons bosses have raised desperately needed funds for the site by charging media crews access to shoot here. Despite fears that such plans risked turning the institution into a ‘theme park’, figures obtained by Mr S show that parliament raised some £223,883 from 106 requests for such filming between January 2014 and November 2020. Steerpike was intrigued to peruse the records of such requests to find out who exactly has been filming here. Many of the requests are, as expected,

Top Trump

The thing I most regret having failed ever to ask brave, haunted, wise Sean O’Callaghan when I last saw him at a friend’s book launch was ‘So tell me about Shergar.’ It has long been known, of course, that the legendary racehorse — one of the five greatest in the last century, according to Lester Piggott who rode him to victory in the Irish Derby — was kidnapped in 1983 by the IRA and never seen thereafter. What I didn’t realise, till after O’Callaghan died last year, was that the ex-IRA man is the only insider ever to have gone on the record as to his fate. Turns out that

Dear Mary: How can I stop piling on the pounds after Strictly?

From Ed Balls Q. I have been doing a lot of exercise over the past few weeks and I’ve lost well over a stone. Sadly my (full-time) exercise regime has just come to an enforced and rather abrupt halt. How do I stop just regaining all those pounds over Christmas? A. You are unlikely to have the time or willpower to continue with the full-time exercise regime which created this flattering new physique. Yet there is no reason why you can’t adapt the method Beach Boy Brian Wilson used to lose nine stone, which was to employ two full-time minders to simply block his access to the fridge. Your own

Celebrity Dear Mary

From Rt Hon Gisela Stuart MP Q. I keep getting into arguments with people about what being a Labour MP is all about. I used to think that being in government was better than being in opposition. They now tell me I’m wrong and that the years since 2010 have been better and purer than the flawed years from 1997 to 2010. Help. Are they right and am I wrong? A. As a Roman Catholic German Brexiteer Labour MP for a Birmingham constituency, you should have grown used to being in a minority. If you would rather be in power than out of it, the obvious solution is to switch

Death by television

Forty years ago this month a film appeared, so prescient I wonder if its author, Paddy Chayefsky, saw the 2016 American presidential election campaign in a crystal ball. It was called Network and it foretold the rise of Donald Trump. The plot is King Lear appears on Newsnight: a newsman run mad. The protagonist is Howard Beale (Peter Finch), an anchorman at a failing network. The year is 1976, and America is embattled with inflation, depression and the end of the Vietnam war. It is not a time for American heroes, to paraphrase Chayefsky’s acolyte Aaron Sorkin writing in The West Wing. Beale’s ratings are low. He is fired. He

Martin Vander Weyer

Should I pop a cheque in the post or brave the dangers of online banking?

There’s an electronic device on my desk that looks — through its bubble- wrap — like a cheap miniature calculator. It’s still in the packaging a month after it arrived because I’m irritated by the idea that I have to master a new gadget specifically designed to complicate a familiar action. The thing is a debit-card reader, and I gather I must activate it whenever I want to send money from my bank account via the internet to a new payee. At first that was done simply by typing the payee’s details into boxes on my laptop screen; then it involved waiting for a security code to pop up on

Michael Gove falls in love…again

Michael Gove has been keeping himself busy this week with his non-apology apology tour. He came close to saying sorry to Boris Johnson and admitted he made mistakes during the party’s summer leadership contest. But he has saved his biggest about-turn for this morning. In his column in The Times today, the Brexit backer has admitted he’s fallen head over heels for an unlikely person: Ed Balls. Where once the pair traded blows across the despatch box, Gove has now changed his tune and declared his true feeling for his former adversary. He said that ‘against (his) better judgement…I have developed an infatuation with another man’ and went on to say he

Diary – 27 October 2016

I have never met Donald Trump, but I knew his parents. A fact that makes me feel about 100 years old. Which was actually nearer the age Fred and Mary Anne Trump were when, as a teenager, I made my first trip to New York. I remember riding backwards in their limousine on the way to lunch with the extended Trump clan and the lovely Mary Anne apologising that her son Donald would not be joining us. ‘You know about Donald?’ she inquired. I nodded, and recall her adding rather wistfully, ‘He’s always been the outgoing one.’ One of the great pleasures of life, I now realise — and a

Labour’s ex-frontbenchers make the most of life outside the shadow cabinet

What can you fill your time with if you’re a former Labour frontbencher left twiddling your thumbs as a result of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership? Well, as Caroline Flint and Chuka Umunna have shown this week by launching themselves into campaigns to replace Keith Vaz, chairing a select committee is a pretty attractive option, particularly when it is one as prestigious as the Home Affairs Committee. But both have also shown over the past few months that it is possible to be a forlorn former frontbencher and still achieve something. Umunna was on the airwaves on Monday morning talking about migration controls: a slot his Shadow Cabinet colleagues might only dream

Dear God, am I going to start liking Ed Balls?

What the hell is going on with Ed Balls? Back in the horrible doldrums of the last Labour government, he was the most reliable total bastard around. There was Gordon Brown himself, of course, throwing phones at people and using his special sinister voice when he spoke about children, and Damian McBride, who had a reputation for being the nastiest spin-doctor there ever was, although he only ever texted me twice and actually quite nicely. Balls, though, was the spirit animal who tied the whole thing together. So many years later, it is almost impossible to convey how weary and stale that government was by the end. How it seemed

Coffee Shots: Happy #EdBallsDay

Although Ken Livingstone has done his best to steal Ed Balls’s thunder today, it’s important to take a moment and remember what April 28 is really all about. Today marks the 5th anniversary of Ed Balls day — the day the former shadow chancellor accidentally tweeted his own name. Five years on and a lot has changed for Balls — and Labour. Happily, now he is no longer an MP — let alone a shadow Cabinet member — Balls seems to have a lot more time on his hands, which would explain why he has made himself a cake to mark the occasion.

Ed Balls’ Christmas Day starter recipe

Cooking the Christmas dinner is my job in our house. And I love it. All those courses and juggling of logistics. The annual realisation that our oven is too small to cope with the scale of my ambitions. Ladling goose fat from the pan. And a family meal which — just once a year — can take as long as it needs to take, without kids rushing off to a rehearsal or to finish homework or even just to escape their relatives. Every year I like to try to something new. Most recently a rich and marzipan-y German cake called a stollen (lesson, don’t leave it too long in the

Straight-talking John McDonnell will not be talking straight to the press

How does an Opposition party make up for the fact that its response to an economic statement is necessarily rather vague and rushed? In previous years Ed Balls would hold a briefing for journalists three or four hours after the announcement so that he could produce analysis involving figures and the small print that it is impossible to conjure up in the two seconds between the Chancellor finishing his statement and the start of your own response. These briefings became a bit of a show, because Balls loved the knockabout and also loved revealing details that he hoped would skewer George Osborne. As interim Shadow Chancellor, Chris Leslie continued this

Bevanite Ellie makes a comeback for Camp Cooper

In 2010 a young Labour blogger by the name of Ellie Gellard introduced Gordon Brown at Labour’s manifesto launch. Unfortunately the party’s attempts to look down with the kids soon backfired as it was revealed that Gellard — who goes by the name @BevaniteEllie on Twitter — had previously written on her Stilettoed Socialist blog that she hoped Brown would stand down; ‘get your coat: time’s up’. So Mr S hopes for Yvette Cooper’s sake that Gellard’s latest efforts will have a better result. While Gellard moved away from politics after a stint helping Ed Balls (and embarking on a relationship with his head of communications Alex Belardinelli), she is making a comeback having been appointed Elle

Yvette Cooper: I won’t be challenging Labour leadership result

It was Yvette Cooper’s turn to do a Q&A session on the World at One today and it was a pretty dry affair, unlike Corbyn or Burnham. There was nothing new about her policies or stances but Cooper did note that she fears a split of Corbyn wins — ‘the party does seem to be polarising between the different extremes’ — but Labour HQ has assured her that all the necessary checks over entryism are being done: ‘Obviously I hope there have and the Labour party has assured us that they are doing proper and robust checks — you’ve got to have that. We want people to be part of the election and we want people to be joining to be part of the election.

Why is David Lammy getting beaten up for telling the truth about tax credits?

Poor old David Lammy. At 11pm last night, the Labour mayoral hopeful tweeted that his mum had depended on tax credits so he supports them now. Twitter went wild, saying that they were only invented in 2003 so he must have been fibbing! Even Derek Draper got stuck in. And, oddly, the story has grown since then – in spite of being utter nonsense. Lammy wasn’t quick enough to rebut, and the non-story ends up being followed up in The Guardian. After a child poverty campaign in 1970, tax credits were introduced (as a temporary measure) by Ted Heath in 1971. The aim, then as now, was to precision-bomb welfare upon certain families working

Alistair Darling: why I changed my mind on tax credits

Last autumn, I presented a Ch4 documentary on inequality. I could have made three hours’ worth of that show – or written a book – but it was distilled down to 27 minutes so a lot was chopped. Including my interview with Alistair Darling about the malfunction of tax credits. (Our conversation to QE is above). I later quoted from the unused clip in the Daily Telegraph a while back: he said that tax credits had come to subsidise low wages “in a way that was never intended.” This must have caught the eye of a No10 speechwriter because this quote has ended up quoted by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor (who

The photo of the young Queen playing Nazi is an important historical document. It should shock us

What can a image from 1933 ever really tell us? In July 1933, Der Stürmer, the Nazi newspaper, published a cover image of a gaping Jewish mouth, the picture of avarice, swallowing kings, admirals, bankers, film stars, greedy for world-control. Hitler had come to power in January of that year and immediately stepped up repression of Jews – it was well reported in the UK. Jews outside Germany decided to hit back and organise a boycott of German goods – Edward VIII could have read about this under the Daily Express headline ‘Judea declares war on Germany’. This allowed the Nazis to further intensify their anti-semitism. So, in that July edition of Der Stürmer, a long panegyric to the

Ed Balls hired by Harvard to ‘research financial stability’

During the election, Ed Miliband’s opponents regularly criticised the Labour leader for naming his life experience outside the Westminster bubble as ‘teaching at Harvard’. Still, the naysayers haven’t put his former sidekick Ed Balls off returning to the university he once studied at. Today the ousted Labour MP has confirmed reports that he is joining the Ivy League establishment as a senior fellow. In a statement John Haigh, the executive Dean of the Kennedy School, announced the appointment: ‘We’re delighted to welcome Ed Balls to the Mossavar-Rahmani business and government centre. Ed brings enormous depth and breadth of experience in the public sector and we’re confident he will make a valuable contribution to our students, to the