Tag Archives: ed-balls

Balls, dirty tricks and candidate selection

The revelations in the Sunday Times this weekend about Ed Balls being the secret puppetmaster behind “smeargate” seem a little thin to me, but they do remind me of an incident a few years ago.

Long time readers may recall my ill-fated campaign to get Ed Balls a sex change operation so that he could stand in an all-women-shortlist having had his seat abolished by the Boundary Commission. In the event, he didn’t need one after Colin Challen decided to stand down and leave the newly created constituency of Morley and Outwood open for Balls to take (conveniently enough, no all woman shortlist was imposed of course).

What I reported at the time, from a good source close to Challen, was that he had jumped after a dirty tricks campaign had been launched to discredit him. The most high profile example of that campaign was the secret briefing that had gone on to make a bicycle accident he had been involved in look like an attention-seeking exercise.

I found the failure of the mainstream media (and, it has to be said, Guido), to join the dots and ask pretty basic questions about all this remarkable at the time. If it had been challenged, Balls could have had to struggle to find another safe seat (especially one so close to his wife’s). With Damian McBride now exposed, this is a possible avenue that journalists might want to explore further.

Candidate selection seems to be a particularly murky business in the Labour Party. The Guardian carried a very anti-Georgina Gould story yesterday, alleging that Margaret McDonough’s PR agency bbm communications helped run her selection campaign and co-ordinated a dodgy postal vote strategy. But the other side of the story – specifically that Charlie Whelan was running Rachael Maskell’s campaign in a similar manner – seems equally unsavoury. And as Alice Mahon has been keen to emphasise, this is not an isolated incident.

The overall picture is of a party utterly dominated by a self-serving elite (or, more precisely, a number of interconnected self-serving elites and dynastic families). I suspect it will require at least a couple of Parliaments in opposition for them to start to sort themselves out and become something resembling a proper party again.

Has Labour got two Balls?

Is it me or is there a disconnect between Ed Balls, the stalwart defender of playgrounds and opponent of compo culture, who two months ago was saying this:

“If you don’t want to do something a bit risky, too often people say ‘we can’t do that because of health and safety’.

“It is the risk aversion in some cases which stops things happening which I want to tackle head on,” he said.

The Government’s consultation paper says: “We need to work together as a society to create popular attitudes that embrace children in public space and challenge inappropriate ‘No Ball Games’ cultures.

“This means adults being willing to share public space with children and understand that play can, at times, test boundaries.”

And the killjoy who today was saying this:

“Tougher enforcement powers are needed to tackle under-age binge drinking, but enforcement measures alone are not the solution. We need a culture change, with everyone – from parents, the alcohol industry and young people – all taking more responsibility.”

You could argue I’m being unfair and comparing apples with oranges, but I do wonder. We’ve had ten years of this approach, providing people with more advice while making the law even more draconian at the same time. It doesn’t appear to have helped. It does appear to have gone hand in hand with a rise in anxiety about this issue.

Why do we need screeds of new health advice about safe alcohol limits? It isn’t as if young people are unaware that if they get drunk they lose the full use of their faculties; that’s kind of why they do it in the first place. And parents will either be the relatively responsible type who teach their kids how to drink socially, or the type who aren’t going to be interested in a leaflet giving them advice in the first place. What next? Parenting lessons?

It seems to me that youth binge drinking isn’t a problem in and of itself, it is a symptom. On the one hand you have a lack of facilities, meaning that kids have literally nothing else to do. On the other hand, increased hysteria about youth drinking has meant that instead of experimenting with alcohol in the relative safety of their local, they are doing their experimenting in either vast impersonal drinking halls (if they can afford it) or, more likely, downing Diamond White while sitting around in those playgrounds that Balls is so keen on.

The fact is, those sneaky night time park binges are as much a part of childhood as falling off climbing frames. The same anxiety that leads councils to closing down playgrounds is behind the current anxiety about youths drinking. Even if we had the best youth service in the world, generations of young people will go through that period in their lives. To use Balls’ own language, it is all about “testing boundaries”. Along with all other kinds of so-called anti-social behaviour, the main impact of turning naughtiness into a criminal offence has been to allow adults to excuse themselves of any responsibility for it. The result has been, young people are testing boundaries only to discover those boundaries growing ever larger.

Labour can’t really afford to have both Balls at the same time. To be fair on the man, he has previously expressed scepticism about the whole Blairite approach to anti-social behaviour in the past. His announcement today though just sounds like more of the same.

Balls to Morley and Rothwell

An interesting twist on the recent announcement by Colin Challen that he won’t be restanding in Morley and Rothwell, in order to spend more time with his vegetables. I understand from a reliable source that he is incredibly bitter about what he perceives to be a dirty tricks campaign waged by Balls’ team over the past few weeks, which hit fever pitch when rumours began circulating (helpfully boosted by secret Balls admirer Guido Fawkes) that he had made up stories about him falling off his bike.

My bid to raise funds for Ed Balls’ sex change operation failed late last year. Fortunately for him, all women shortlists are at the discretion of the Labour NEC which judiciously (ab)uses them to help the “right” sort of candidate such as Balls, and exclude the “wrong” candidates such as Peter Law. Is it any wonder why people are so cynical about them?

Give Balls the Snip!

Photo of Ed Balls: New Balls PleaseFor some months now, I have been worrying about the fate that is expected to befall that bright, upcoming MP Ed Balls.

Ed, you see, is due to see his constituency wiped out in the next boundary changes. His repeated appeals that he is a Very Important Person and that This Sort Of Thing Doesn’t Happen To People Like Me have fallen on deaf ears. It now looks like he will have to find a new seat if he is to remain an MP after the next General Election.

This presents him with a bit of a problem. You see, the Labour Party is committed to imposing on its most winnable constituencies All Women Shortlists. Ed, however, is not a woman. And of course Labour would never dream of making special dispensation purely on the basis that the person in question is one of Gordon Brown’s bezzie mates. It would be unthinkable. The fact that last time round Ed Balls managed to get a seat next door to his wife, Yvette Cooper, is a pure coincidence and should not raise any eyebrows at all.

I however have come up with a great new plan. If we can’t have Ed in the Commons, what about Edwina? My research tells me it would cost £15,000 for a sex change operation. If we could just get 15,000 people to put in a quid each, all his problems would be solved!

What do you think of this idea? Let me know in the comments, or better yet, spread the word.

UPDATE: I see Guido is promoting this noble campaign. And I’ve now set up a pledgebank page on this, as requested.

CODA (1 December 2014): I just came across this blog post and, looking at it again, would like to apologise for any offence it may have caused. Not to Ed Balls, but I like to think that I’m more aware of trans* issues these days and would not dream of making a crass joke like this these days. I considered taking this down, but considered it to be the cowardly option. So I’m going to leave this here as an occasional reminder to myself to do better.

Tory Balls

I think Channel 4’s Fact Check is being a little unfair to Gideon Osborne here in stating that is claim that Ed Balls was a member of the Tories at university is completely bogus.

It is true, at least in my experience, that there is a very different political culture in Oxford and Cambridge when it comes to signing up people to student societies. Elsewhere in the country, student groups often struggle to sign up enough people and mostly treat the Fresher’s Fair as a recruitment ground. Back when I was the LDYS Communications Officer we were always frustrated with the fact that the Oxford group didn’t see it as their role to recruit people into the party, but rather have lots of jolly parties. I’m not for a minute suggesting this is still the case; I have no idea. Nor am I denying that many of the party’s brightest and best went to Oxbridge; indeed in my experience many of those people had the same frustrations I did and got politically involved in other ways.

But seriously, why would you join the “Conservative Association” unless you were genuinely inclined to join the Conservative Party? If you just wanted to go on jollies, there’s the Oxford Union or the Wine Society. While there are always a few wags who delight in joining all three parties, they are rarely people with firm political convictions.

So the fact that a potential future Labour Chancellor of the Exchequor once flirted with the Tories is both meaningful and important for the public to know. The fact that it took an annoying squit like Gideon to point it out is neither here nor there.