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The way Ed Balls's stutter was treated in the Commons points to a familiar compassion deficit

This behaviour shames the home of our democracy
  • @mrsnickyclark

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls gave his thoughts on yesterday's Autumn Statement by George Osborne.

What was notable was that Ed Balls also referred to yet another example of how truly unedifying the Chamber can be at times, when he commented on the mocking, yelling and adolescent roaring of the Conservative benches to the halting start of his response.

Ed Balls, like millions of others in this country, lives with a speech impediment. In his case a stammer which has been widely documented and which can be debilitating and a fertile ground for those who like to indulge in mocking and abuse.

“Banter” I believe it is often trivialised, yet stress can be a mitigating factor in exacerbating a speech impediment. So to see the Conservatives' behaviour is at once unsurprising and depressing.

The Tories seem in recent years to have chosen to exploit disability and impairments to make political points.

The double act of Cameron and Osborne appears much less the family friendly Morecambe and Wise and much more Lord of the Flies when they use autism to jibe at Gordon Brown, and describe sitting opposite Ed Balls as akin to “sitting opposite someone with Tourettes Syndrome.”

What is the issue with disability as a justifiable insult for them? When are these men going to act like political leaders not  overgrown children and stop mocking the impairments of others and look to their own compassion deficit?

Politics can be a contact sport - and Ed Balls is often abrasive himself - but is it justifiable to mock and yell and roar with impunity?

I will leave the final words of this piece to the comment the Shadow Chancellor made this morning. The dignity both in delivery and content throws the nonsense of yesterday’s spectacle into very sharp relief.

“Everybody knows with me that I have a stammer and sometimes my stammer gets the better of me in the first minute or two when I speak, especially when I have the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and three hundred Conservative MP’s yelling at me at the top of their voices, but frankly that’s just who I am and I don’t mind that.”