Goodbye to the man who could never admit he got it all wrong: SIMON HEFFER on how Ed Balls never shed his reputation for slipperiness and political thuggery
There is an arrogance about Ed Balls that never endeared him to the public, despite his best endeavours to woo the electorate.
He gave interviews about his love of cooking and piano lessons, about how he overcame his stammer and how he often cries while watching TV’s Antiques Roadshow.
But in the 18 years since becoming Gordon Brown’s sidekick at the Treasury in 1997, he never shed his reputation for slipperiness and political thuggery.
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There is an arrogance about Ed Balls that never endeared him to the public, despite his best endeavours to woo the electorate
He was one of the architects of Labour’s economic policy that helped to engineer the worst crash since 1931, with public debt doubling, sterling crashing and the stock market plunging.
This was largely his fault, although he would never admit it, let alone apologise for it.
As a result of Labour’s obsession with building a huge client state with an accompanying culture of welfare dependency, public spending irresponsibly soared to about 50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in a reckless expansion of the public sector that increased Britain’s national debt to grotesque levels.
Britain then suffered the longest and deepest recession in its history with manufacturing falling from 20.7 per cent of GDP in 1997 to 11 per cent in 2010.
Voted out of power in 2010, a far from contrite Mr Balls then attacked the Coalition as it set about rescuing the British economy from the ruins he had left it in.
Ed Balls was one of the architects of Labour’s economic policy that helped to engineer the worst crash since 1931, with public debt doubling, sterling crashing and the stock market plunging
Like many MPs, Balls was caught up in the expenses scandal. He and his wife, fellow Labour MP Yvette Cooper, were exposed as two of the most egregious expenses claimants at Westminster
At that point, even Ed Miliband realised his colleague was a liability. Indeed, when he became Labour leader, he snubbed Mr Balls and appointed Alan Johnson as his shadow chancellor. It was only when Mr Johnson resigned that a rattled Mr Miliband felt he had no choice but to appoint Mr Balls after all.
As ever, he remained in denial about his responsibility for the state of the economy. Were there an Olympic competition for arrogance, Ed Balls would be a contender for the gold medal.
Ignoring the considerable improvements that the Coalition made to the economy, his self-delusion became almost pathological. When the facts didn’t suit Mr Balls, he ignored them or made up alternative ones.
Like many MPs, he was caught up in the expenses scandal. He and his wife, fellow Labour MP Yvette Cooper, were exposed as two of the most egregious expenses claimants at Westminster, having ‘flipped’ their address three times to gain maximum allowances.
He and his wife said their ‘main’ home was in Yorkshire, even though their children attended school near their house in London; a house they maintained as their ‘second’ home for expenses purposes.
Ed Balls once said: ‘The thing about politics is to plan ten years ahead and assume every year is your last.’ He was certainly right about that as far as his own career was concerned.
He also claimed expenses for cleaning, gardening or odd jobs without submitting receipts.
His delusion didn’t involve economics only. More than a decade ago, when he was working for Gordon Brown, he rebuked me at a private lunch for predicting that devolution for Scotland would lead to the eventual break-up of the United Kingdom.
He told me that if the Union broke, the Queen would have to abdicate and the monarchy would end — an absurd assertion for which there is no constitutional basis.
Ed Balls once said: ‘The thing about politics is to plan ten years ahead and assume every year is your last.’
He was certainly right about that as far as his own career was concerned.
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