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Diary: Balls picks wrong time for dig at family photos


So much in politics is to do with timing. Weeks ago, the shadow Chancellor Ed Balls gave an interview to a quarterly magazine produced by think-tank the Fabian Society. Knowing that it would be published shortly before Christmas, he gave them some light-hearted comments about how he and Yvette argue over whether presents should arrive in pillow cases or socks, Balls being a pillow case advocate.

More seriously, the couple have agreed not to feature their child in photo shoots. "The most precious thing for me and us is definitely protecting our children so that they can be who they want to be," he said. "However short-term, tactical and tempting it might be to have pictures on the front of a Sunday magazine, we would never, ever do that."

His target at the time was David and Samantha Cameron, who have been repeatedly photographed with their children. Samantha even appeared on the front of Harper's Bazaar with daughter Nancy and son Elwen in fancy dress.

What Ed Balls could not know was that his words would be published just days after several hundred people had received copies of Ed Miliband's Christmas card, featuring Ed, Justine, and sons Daniel and Samuel.

Lansley-Oliver relations thaw

Festive cheer has warmed the frosty relationship between the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, and Jamie Oliver. In October the TV chef assessed Lansley's ideas for the nation to get fit as "worthless, regurgitated, patronising, rubbish". But when asked by LBC radio presenter Nick Ferrari about his views on Oliver, Lansley replied: "Actually, I'm a huge fan. My wife and I have a number of his cooking books at out home and we're sure to use them at some point over the next week or so." Here's hoping they choose the healthy option.

Iron Lady director didn't vote Maggie

Phyllida Lloyd, director of the forthcoming film The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, is obviously in two minds about its real-life subject. "I think the fact that she was the first female prime minister through the door means that she's always been a feminist icon. I hadn't voted for her, so I wasn't remotely pro-Tory – but when it was announced that she was going to form a government, I remember mouthing to myself silently 'yes!' I marked it as a moment in history for women," she tells the new edition of Stylist magazine.

Almighty good joke

The Diary will knock off for Christmas now and will be back in the New Year. Have a good break, and if you are short of a topical political joke to regale over your Christmas, how about this:

By tragic coincidence, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron all died on the same day. Because of their status, they bypassed St Peter and were taken directly to the head man himself. Looking down from his throne, the Creator of All Things asked Tony Blair why he should be admitted to heaven.

"I admit I got it terribly wrong over those WMDs," said Blair, "but I did have achievements to my credit at home, where I introduced the national minimum wage, for instance, and abroad, where I contributed to peace and good governance in Africa." The Almighty accepted this, and Blair passed through to paradise.

He turned next to Gordon Brown, who confessed: "I was bad tempered, I was obsessed with getting Tony out so that I could take his place, but in my years as chancellor I presided over a long period of economic stability and in 2008 I played a major role in preventing a world recession." He too was granted eternal bliss.

Finally, God turned to David Cameron. "So, Mr Cameron, why should you be allowed into heaven?" he asked.

Cameron eyed him and replied; "Actually, you're in my chair. Move, please."