Matthew Norman on Monday: Cameron may be on to something with his Tourette's analogy

 

In the matter of Ed Balls and Tourette's, David Cameron clearly spoke without thinking. I refer not to his description of frontbench life as being "like having someone with Tourette's permanently sitting opposite you", but to yesterday's hurried apology. Exhaustive research, conducted over almost two minutes, suggests the PM may have been right. According to Luc de Nil, a speech defect academic at Toronto University, there may be a link between Tourette's and stammering of the sort Mr Balls eventually mastered, with possibly one in three sufferers also stuttering in childhood.

A more widely recognised symptom is exaggerated blinking, meanwhile, and I need hardly remind you that, until he overcame this with a heroic act of will, Mr Balls was fondly known as Blinky. Factor in the involuntary gestures (that "flatlining" hand movement, for instance) and repetitive blurting of phrases, and the anecdotal evidence stacks up.

"Misconceptions about this tic disorder are customary," observes Dr Samuel H Zinner, a Washington University paediatrician of the belief that all Tourette's sufferers swear like Malcolm Tucker. In fact, "it often goes un- or misdiagnosed". The PM should withdraw his apology pending further investigations.

Balls made cuts, too

If and when the diagnosis is confirmed, Ed Miliband will have to cease persecuting his shadow Chancellor. "Look," he declared of Mr Balls last week, "Ed is the guy who invented the spending freeze, 1997-98."

This is half true. Ken Clarke, as Chancellor, jokily "invented" a freeze he had no intention of observing himself, purely as a trap. Mr Balls, as Gordon Brown's best little helper, blundered into it. In defiance of the alternative suggested by a booming economy, the NHS was starved of cash for New Labour's first two years, with thousands unnecessarily dying for the lack of heart surgery, cancer treatment and organ transplants.

Why Milibandroid the Younger wishes to remind us that Mr Balls is morally guilty of mass manslaughter is beyond me. And just when the boys seemed to be playing so nicely.

Murdoch vindictive? Surely not

As for Little Ed's typo upon Bob Holness's passing, The Sun and The Times did well to treat "Blackbusters" as a major story. Neither paper will have guessed that party leaders tend to delegate tweeting to junior officials, while it goes without saying that their glee had nothing to do with vengefulness occasioned by Little Ed's anti-Murdochian stance of last summer. It has never been the Murdoch titles' way to "work to the Führer" by prosecuting his personal feuds, as Anne Diamond would happily confirm.

Just the man to sort Tony's tax

How sad to see the unhealthy fixation with Mr Tony Blair's financial arrangements survive the change of year. The Sunday Telegraph has examined accounts filed by one of his élite stable of 39,272,307 companies and partnerships and discovered he is paying tax at an almost Vodafonic rate.

On earnings of about £12m, of which £8m is unaccounted for, his Windrush Ventures paid only £315,000. The only way to end all this mischievous speculation is a full audit of his concerns, under the aegis of someone especially au fait with the complexities of corporate taxation. Perhaps Gordon could carve the time from his schedule of parliamentary duties?

* Sincere sympathies to Steve McNamara, spokesman for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, over Diane Abbott's attack. She had the gall to suggest some drivers still struggle to notice when hailed by black people. The thought of it. On behalf of his members, Mr McNamara countercharges Ms Abbott with racism, and not a soul was reminded of the conventional confusion of kitchen utensils as to their own pigmentation.

* I am alarmed to find Jeremy Clarkson in trouble again, for using his reliably Wildean Sun column to jape about the Chinese cockle-pickers who drowned in Morecambe Bay. Some will wonder if this racist hilarity is a tic hinting at a neurological disorder. At the next Chipping Norton Set reunion, Mr Cameron might lavish his diagnostic genius on his pal.

m.norman@independent.co.uk

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz