The Sketch: Cannon Ball Ed has a new weapon: his voice


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The Independent Online

Ed Balls has developed a new voice – and what a voice. They could use it as an acoustic cannon to repel pirates. It's like having one of those female tennis players standing by your armchair and serving aces directly into your ear. The noise shakes your insides and confuses your vision. What it lacks in variation and music it makes up for in volume, percussion, persistence. It is enormous: it's the voice of a deaf giant (no offence to deaf giants). It's so hard to be heard in Opposition, I suppose.

He came to the House to lead his new team into its first skirmish with the Government: Rachel Reeves – a Bank of England economist – and two others whose identities the gallery is still trying to determine. One thing they all have in common: they supported Ed Miliband rather than Ed Balls for leader.

Of Yvette Cooper's five new under-ministers, four voted for Miliband rather than her husband. The leader has stuffed the offices of his two main rivals with his own supporters. I predict it will not end well.

Back to the collapse of the international monetary system. It was a terrific afternoon in the House, impossible not to enjoy. From Ed there were three or four references to George Osborne's reputed appetite for whipping. An ancien régime dismissal of Charles Clarke (he was the Labour Home Secretary in the 18th century). A characterisation of Jesse Norman as Clark Kent: "Get back in your phone box, I'm answering your question!"

His backbench joined in with scrum-down chants of: "growth, growth, growth!" Or: "desperate, desperate, desperate!" Osborne took quite as many interventions – at one point they were toe-to-toe at the dispatch box in such a way you couldn't tell who was intervening.

The conclusion? Those who like state spending believe more state spending is the answer – and those who don't, the opposite. The country is somewhere we don't quite know yet. There is fiddling and a smouldering Rome.