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I went to an unusual book launch by a politician this week. Instead of a self serving glowing account of their great achievements (pace Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson to name but two) this book by Ed Balls is refreshingly honest – it talks about his political mistakes (intended or otherwise).
Ed Balls – who probably will become more famous for his performances on Strictly Come Dancing than his role in promoting tax credits – suffered the ” Portillo moment” at the last General Election when he was unexpectedly defeated by the Tories. Indeed he revealed BBC Panorama had unsuccessfully tried to get him to do a programme with Michael Portillo on this very fact and compare and contrast how high flying politicians feel when the electorate rejects them.
Organised by the Strand Group (see report ) at Kings College, London Ed Balls admitted many mistakes – such as he could have handled better the sacking of Sharon Shoesmith, the former head of Haringey’s childrens’ services, over the notorious torture and death of Baby P.
He was also critical of May’s failure of leadership over Brexit and also warned that when governments have a weak opposition the media narrative is all about splits in the government – hence the obsession about the Blair Brown split when Iain Duncan Smith led the Tory party. So if the Labour row continues May could find life difficult as the media hone in on Tory Brexit splits.
One experience Gordon Brown and Theresa May share is that both of them have been anointed Prime Minister – neither faced a campaign against rivals and both took office without winning a general election.
In his book Ed Balls describes the botched attempt to call a general election immediately after Gordon became leader. Ed writes at the time ” the ‘risk’ of going for an early general elecrion was nowhere near as risky as deciding not to.”
But Labour dithered – first talking up an early election – and then knocking it down.But the result was devastating and certainly Brown made a mistake in not acting earlier and more decisively.
As Ed concludes on the day Brown backed off from an election: ” A dismal day in October, a day from which Gordon’s premiership and the togetherness and trust of his closest advisers and confidants never recovered.”
So what would Ed advise Theresa to do now. I asked him this when I got him to sign a copy of his book.
His answer was frank. She should call an election setting out her own manifesto and then be able to choose her own Cabinet.
Given the troubles she will face with colleagues – and potential new rows over decisions like Heathrow, HS2, Brexit, immigration etc and the current divisions within Labour it might be good advice for the Tories. She has a much smaller majority than Gordon Brown inherited from Blair.Otherwise she might regret it like Gordon Brown.
I wonder if she might surprise us all by announcing it at the Tory Party Conference?
Whilst this article mentions Ball’s appalling behaviour around Baby P, and Harringey Children’s Services, and suggests a “Mea Culpa”, the Strand Group report on the speech accessed through the link does not even mention it.
Good point. He did in answer to direct question when I was there so it happened and got tweeted by some people.
Thanks for clarifying, David. I didn’t mean to imply you made it up, I was more interested in what the other report chose to highlight. For me, Balls behaviour around Baby P was reprehensible, his motives (sucking up to the Murdoch and Mail crowd) appalling, and it completely changed my opinion of him, although I would not have expected anything else from some of his party colleagues.
That’s fine. There may be a video of the event of the site which should contain it. he did spend a bit of time trying to say he did not take an emotional knee jerk view of the case but waited until the authority was condemned in a report before acting. However one senior civil servant at the event told me at the recption afterwards that he had paid too much attention to that.
If I was Teresa May I would say nice try but no chance.
I do have problems uniting the Tory party behind my leadership, but with Dave gone and one or two of the others still to be fund good money making jobs and I can the rest in line through a combination of the threat of calling an early GE and the boundary changes and witnessing the Labour party destroy itself.. I actually feel sorry for Jeremey Corbyn because he is decent principled and honourable like me but h\s parliamentary colleagues and Owen Smith has severely damaged the electoral chances of his party and being unenthusiastic about about Brexit means UKIP wont get stronger and his brand of socialism might begun to row back the Scots nationalists which poses the greatest threat to our power overall. and the pressure for an English Parliament. Of course I a great deal to that splendid appeal judge that rules that the Labour party could change and bend its rules to get rid of the threat of participative democracy which does open the opportunity for Owen Smith to get the job but I have already arranged for a list of all his left policy boasts and being nasty to Jeremy quotes to be used at PMQ’s and other big political media occasions in what is now a win win situation for my party
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