The most irritating man in politics? To put it mildly. Ed Balls is disliked by colleagues, the opposition and the general public. To be held in such contempt, he must be making an effort to increase his unpopularity.
‘The purest treasure mortal times afford is reputation’ wrote Shakespeare. Shadow Chancellor, champagne socialist Ed Balls, is not a politician whose reputation divides opinion. Quite unanimously, he is regarded with derision and contempt. This matter of fact has not gone unnoticed by Mr Balls himself (which is quite refreshing among all the other denials about reality that he and his colleagues are prone to) after he commissioned a survey to find out why he and his policies have failed to elicit much support even when the coalition’s malfunctioning economic policy continues to unravel. According to the Daily Mail, ‘results found that Mr Balls is still seen as a turn-off by many, both politically and personally’. 
In opposition, Labour’s response to the economic situation remains erratic. They seem to suggest that a levy on bankers will fund millions of pounds worth of projects that will kick-start the economy; they suggest that borrowing more money will give the economy the stimulus it needs; they say that if they win the next election they are unlikely to undo the cuts they have objected to in opposition. The bizarre policy of not making promises now that they may not be able to keep in government does not look like sincere honest politics – it looks like what it is – they have not a clue how to respond unless it is through opportunism. Not wishing to detract from the herculean efforts of Mr Miliband, this is Mr Balls’s speciality.
And let us not forget for one moment – the reason for our dire financial circumstances is a direct consequence of Labour’s economic mismanagement. Yes, the coalition is not making things better, but Labour were at the root of it. That Mr Balls was Gordon Brown’s closest political advisor and economic treasurer to the secretary during the immediate financial crisis makes him as culpable as his then boss in presiding so woefully over the situation. He is both guilty and guilty by association.
For Mr Balls, financial mismanagement of the taxpayer’s money is something that comes naturally to him. He and his wife Yvette Cooper have been referred to the parliamentary standards watchdog over £14,000 of expenses made in relation to their children. In 2009 it was revealed that he and his wife had ‘flipped’ the designation of their second home to three different properties within the space of two years. In addition, the cost of hiring removal vans and men, which came in at £2,000, was charged to the tax payer via the parliamentary expenses.  According to The Telegraph, ‘In June 2008, Mr Balls and Miss Cooper were referred to the parliamentary sleaze watchdog over the designation of their second home, amid suggestions that it was improper for them to claim on the family house in London, where they lived during the week.’  Though they were exonerated of wrong-doing, Mr Balls (and indeed his wife) are mired in the sort of sleaze that sticks.
These ‘mistakes’ he has made concerning public money should be enough scuttle his credibility, but he is damaged goods for other reasons. Whatever his denials, the public see him as implicated in the plot to unseat then PM Tony Blair – the so-called ‘Project Volvo’.  Mr Blair may not be held in high regard or with much affection by the electorate, but they detest the likes of Mr Balls for indulging in such ambitious, reckless and self-serving conspiracies when there are very important and very real issues to be dealt with.
Even if Mr Balls has not knowingly committed fraud or swindled the expenses system using the taxpayer’s money, even if he was not involved in conspiracies to unseat a sitting PM and replace him with an unhinged despot like Gordon Brown, Mr Balls always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when these matters occur. If he is not guilty then he is incompetent; if he is not incompetent he is guilty.
The grovelling Mr Balls may yet be chancellor, not because the public vote Labour, but because the do not want the present government, or because they have voted elsewhere. Mr Balls will no doubt colour such a victory as a vindication of his plans (whatever they may be). Regrettably, it is likely that he will plunge the nation’s finances into further choler, so the British economy, like his reputation, will be damaged beyond repair.
© thepanopticonblog, 2012
- 1. ‘Ed Balls splashed out thousands to find out why voters find him a turn-off’. Daily Mail, 11 June 2012. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2157419/Ed-Balls-splashed-thousands-private-poll-voters-turn-off.html#ixzz1xqaoOiN2>
- 2. Caroline Gammell. ‘Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper referred to watchdog over childrens’ expenses’. The Telegraph. 6 March 2011. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/8364597/Ed-Balls-and-Yvette-Cooper-referred-to-watchdog-over-childrens-expenses.html>
- 3. Rosa Prince. ‘Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper ‘flipped’ homes three times: MP’s expenses’. The Telegraph. 15 May 2009. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5325590/Ed-Balls-and-Yvette-Cooper-flipped-homes-three-times-MPs-expenses.html>
- 4. Nicholas Watt. ‘Memos show Ed Balls’ role in ‘Project Volvo’ plot to oust Blair.’ The Guardian. 10 June 2011. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/10/ed-balls-project-volvo-tony-blair>