Andy McSmith's Diary: Leaked – the site of Ed Balls' tête-à-tête with Nick Clegg


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Indy Politics

Ed Balls ruffled a few feathers in the Labour Party 11 months ago, when he disclosed that he had had a talk with Nick Clegg, seemingly about the possibility of Labour going into coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Interviewed in the New Statesman, in January, he spoke more kindly than usual about the Deputy Prime Minister, and said he understood the Liberal Democrat leader’s reasons for going into coalition with the Tories.

What caused the subsequent uproar, however, was not his quoted comments, but a throwaway sentence revealing that Balls had had “a friendly chat” with Clegg a few hours before he gave the interview. That provoked urgent calls to Balls’s office, from Harriet Harman and Douglas Alexander, who wanted to know why they had not been consulted before he met Clegg.

A detail that Balls did not share with the New Statesman was where and when the meeting took place. After a meeting of Labour MPs in Parliament’s Committee Room 14, Balls visited the gents across the committee corridor, and found himself standing next to Clegg at the urinal. It was in that mundane setting that they had their “friendly chat” – a fact which, until now, did not leak out.

Wanted: a jargon buster

Amid the news of falling unemployment, a gem of a job opportunity is on offer to someone in search of a new career. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is advertising for a “head of delivery”, among whose many functions will be to “oversee all project personnel”, to make sure that a “rigorous delivery methodology” is applied, to “collaborate with the head of brand, performance and innovation to ensure that all delivery mechanisms include M&E processes”.

The foundation is also seeking a new head of partnerships to “oversee the development and management of the stakeholder engagement strategy”. Exciting.

Farage’s barmy army

Nigel Farage has a loyal fan in Winston McKenzie, Ukip’s Commonwealth spokesman, who has delivered his views in an interview with the website Chat Politics.

Because of Farage, he said, “politics will never be the same again”. He added: “Jesus was one man, we’re his army. Farage is one man, and we’re his army.” Moreover, “Ukip will hold the balance of power at the next election, I am sure.”

He is right behind his leader on the issue of whether there are too many foreigners on trains. “I get on the train, and all I hear is foreign languages,” he told the site. Farage, you will recall, told Ukip’s spring conference that he felt “awkward” travelling by train out of Charing Cross because he heard so many foreign languages. (Curiously, I commute to Charing Cross without hearing this cosmopolitan babble.)

It is a pleasure to hear from Mr McKenzie again. He has been out of the news since May, when his attempt to win a seat on Croydon council failed. It possibly did not help his campaign that he described Croydon as a “dump”.

PM, from green to pastel

Here is an interesting comparison. “I do not buy into this nonsense about global warming. I do not believe that carbon is creating a runaway problem,” David T C Davies, an eccentric right-wing Tory MP, said during a Commons debate on coal, on 28 October.

“We are in danger of agreeing on environmental issues,” the same David T C Davies told David Cameron during the Prime Minister’s appearance before the Liaison Committee this week. Cameron’s old promise that he would lead “the greenest government ever” is a pale shade of pastel now.