Matthew Norman on Monday: Balls protests ignorance over McBride, but surely he is too saintly for politics?

Ed Balls has said he had no idea of Damien McBride’s machinations, revealed last week


With everything running so smoothly for Labour as what promises to be a fraternal conference  begins in Brighton, it feels absurd to fret about a split between the party’s leader and its economic supremo. Yet although recent history cautions against believing rumours about differences of the kind, you sense a worrying chasm opening between the two Eds in the matter of Damian McBride.

Where Ed Miliband was seemingly intimately aware of some of Mr McBride’s machinations, Ed Balls tells The Times he hadn’t the foggiest. Nimbly eliding Renault in Casablanca and Manuel from Fawlty Towers, Mr Balls tells The Times he is “shocked” by revelations of which he knew nahh-fing.

This raises the question of whether he is too sweet-natured for his trade. Any other compadre of Damian’s would have noted the confluence of a minister a) offending Gordon’s delicate sensibilities and b) being savaged in the press. Yet even when  the “forces of hell” were unleashed on Alistair Darling within 27.4 seconds of him distressing Gordon  by levelling with the public about the scale of the financial crisis, Mr Balls could not make the connection.

This ability to cocoon himself from the nasteries in a taffeta-fringed bubble of post-neo-classical endogenous growth theory does him credit. But it becomes hard to suppress the suspicion that Ed Balls is just too naive and high-minded a soul for the grubby demands of combat politics.

Ignorance spells connubial bliss

Still, if sharing is the key to a happy marriage, as Basil Fawlty once read on the back of a matchbox, at least we need not fear for the Balls-Yvette Cooper wedlock. The ice-pixie so completely shares her old man’s distaste for the foetid underbelly of political life that she couldn’t bring herself to finish the Daily Mail extracts from the McBride opus.

“I started to read them, and to be honest I gave up,” Yvette tells The Independent on Sunday. “I don’t think either Ed or Ed knew the things that were in the papers or what was happening.”

Ah well, one out of two ain’t bad. As Mr Miliband told Andrew Marr, he not only knew, but advised Gordon to fire Mr McBride. And through that tornado, Ed Balls sailed serenely forth in blissful ignorance. Remarkable.

Balls a Judy Garland impersonator?

Another growing split between the Eds surrounds their relative butchness. While Marr described Mr Miliband yesterday as “macho” – a compliment he accepted with wry self-deprecation – Mr Balls’s metrosexuality scales a new apex. The lachrymose shadow Chancellor, Yvette further revealed, has taken to sobbing in The Sound of Music. He now replaces Dr Niles Crane of Seattle as the campest straight man in the anglophone world. If ever he bids so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodnight to this career, he is expected to try his luck as a Judy Garland impersonator in the clubs of East Anglia.

Ali’s metaphoric dysentery

Somewhere over the rainbow, meanwhile, Gordon Brown reprises his celebrated role as Macavity the Mystery Cat. But while he has vanished from the McBridean crime scene at which he will be suspected of being an accessory, Alastair Campbell finds his voice to express  his astonishment at the wickedness, and to accuse Mr McBride of breaking the law by using government emails in smearing’s cause. 

Can anyone cite a more perfect metaphor than the fact that Alastair spent last week in hospital with dysentery? The good news is that the pathogen is now to be stable and on the road to full recovery.

Chuka’s ears must be burning

As for Chuka Umunna, supposedly Yvette’s most dangerous rival for the leadership, it will be intriguing to see whether he is on manoeuvres in Brighton. The self-effacing shadow Business Secretary continues his fight against being likened to President Obama.

There is still no word from his inquiry into who at his then law firm hacked his Wikipedia entry to append that “potentially the British Obama” line. But if Chuka is serious about avoiding the comparison, he should do something about his ears. From behind they are the spitting image of the President’s, and a pinning procedure is urgently indicated.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas