Ed Balls: Forget Stefano Pessina, we've got Bill from EDS

Shadow Chancellor forgets the surname of pro-Labour business leader

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The Independent Online

Following this week's criticism by Boots boss Stefano Pessina, the Labour Party has been keen to hit back - and not just by telling him "to pay his taxes".

Last night, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was at pains to point out that Labour was not anti-business and that he had in fact just been at a dinner with some pro-Labour chums from the industry.

"I’ve been at a dinner tonight with a number of business supporting Labour figures," he began to tell BBC Newsnight's Emily Maitlis. However, she quickly interrupted, asking him who was at the soiree.

"Well…the..um…," Balls bumbled, his mind struggling to remember who he'd chatted to while tucking into his starter. "Bill, the former chief executive of EDS, whom I was talking to just a few moments ago...he is a big supporter of ours."

Ah, the former chief executive of EDS! Bill! But, Bill who? Maitlis asked Balls for Bill's surname.

"It has just gone from my head, which is a bit annoying at this time of night…"

Yet just like how the mystery of Gareth from the Labour conference speech was revealed eventually, Balls took to Twitter soon after his "senior moment" to reveal that Bill from EDS wasn't his boiler man but Bill Thomas, the chair of Labour's Small Business taskforce.

Balls was speaking following criticism from Boots boss Stefano Pessina, who told the Sunday Telegraph that a Labour government would be a "catastrophe" for Britain.

Labour leader Ed Miliband responded by saying: "I don't think people in Britain are going to take kindly to being lectured by someone who is avoiding his taxes, on how they should be voting in the UK general election."