Revealed: How Ed Balls was a Tory under Thatcher

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The Independent Online

* He's the great white hope upon which the future of the Labour movement rests - but Ed Balls has a guilty secret.

The Treasury minister Gordon Brown's closest political ally, turns out to be a former member of Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives.

This bombshell news, which lay unreported for 20 years, has emerged thanks to Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, and a former member of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

He tells me that Balls signed up to OUCA, whose previous members include half the Shadow Cabinet, while at Keble College in the 1980s.

"I was there from 1984-87, and at that time Ed Balls was also a member of OUCA," says Hollobone. "It was well before he was famous, but I was secretary for one term and can distinctly recall the name."

Friends of Balls, who was Brown's speechwriter before becoming an MP last year, confirm that he did once sign up to OUCA, but, oddly, deny this was for political reasons.

"Ed hasn't exactly advertised the fact, but he's never sought to hide it either. It even featured in the jokes at his wedding," I'm told.

"He joined the Tories at Oxford because they used to book top-flight political speakers, and only members were allowed to attend their lectures.

"Ed was, however, also a member of the Labour Club. He was more active in that, and was always, at heart, a man of the left."

* As if Kate Moss didn't have enough on her plate, she now faces the poison pen of one of Britain's leading satirists.

Jonathan Harvey, the creator of Gimme Gimme Gimme, is writing a comedy based on the so-called "Primrose Hill set".

Billed as a "bawdy satire", it will send-up Moss and such high-living chums as Sadie Frost, Jude Law, and Meg Matthews.

Today, Channel Five will meet with Harvey's production firm, Sixth Floor, to discuss the first series of the show, which boasts the working-title Primrose Hill.

"It will be a high-octane, ironic look at the various pop stars, models and actresses who live there," I'm told.

"Obviously, given the sort of behaviour we are going to portray, we will of course be required to carry a disclaimer, stressing that specific events in the show are completely fictionalised."

* The former Coronation Street actor Adam Rickitt has been cruelly lampooned in his efforts to become a Tory MP.

Only last week, several left-wing newspapers gleefully reported that he'd agreed to star in Norwich Theatre Royal's Christmas panto.

In fact, Rickitt tells me that the show - he will pay Prince Charming in Cinderella - has been unfairly misrepresented.

"I'm not actually doing a traditional panto," he said at the Conservative Summer Party. "This will be what youy'd call a Christmas show, like what Ian McKellen has done at the Old Vic.

Apopros of his career, he adds: "People forget that when you are a prospective candidate you aren't paid. You still have to make a living."

* Barry Gardiner has become the latest Defra minister to upset Britain's red-blooded carnivores.

During a debate in Westminster Hall, Gardiner revealed that Lord Inglewood has invited him to dine on grey squirrel at a hotel in the Lake District.

"I would find it difficult to say that I am tempted," he said. "I understand that it was Elvis Presley's favourite dish. But it would certainly not be mine. As minister responsible for biodiversity, I do not feel able to promote eating a grey squirrel to save a red one."

To which Tory MP Peter Atkinson replied: "I've actually tasted grey squirrel. They eat it in America. Although there's not a lot of meat on it, it tastes like chicken and is quite palatable."

* A recent episode of Steve Coogan's latest series, Saxondale - in which he plays a former "roadie" from the West Midlands - remorselessly parodied a motoring journalist who was (presumably) based on Jeremy Clarkson.

Splendidly, it looks like Clarkson has filmed a riposte. His Top Gear team spent the weekend working backstage at The Who's concert in Hyde Park.

"Along with his two co-presenters, Clarkson spent the day lifting flight cases and setting up the stage, all of which was filmed for the show," reports the band's guitarist, Pete Townshend. "Fair play for their efforts, though it has to be said that they looked a bit knackered by the day's end."

Both Clarkson and Coogan work for the BBC. I trust they can take a joke in the spirit it was intended.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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