The expertise of Ed Balls

THE resignation of Alan Johnson as Labour’s shadow chancellor this afternoon has opened the door for Ed Balls to finally get the job he wanted. We all know he’s been craving the job since being overlooked by Ed Miliband last year and told to be happy being Shadow Home Secretary. Has it consumed him? Just look at his visit to Parliament Hill School in Highgate last week: even in a classroom of A-level students with no say on the matter he seemed determined to come up with a recollection allowing him to hammer home where his ‘expertise’ lies.

Charlotte Newton from the Ham and High (link to follow) reports of his school talk today:

He provoked laughter by describing how Tony Blair played a joke on him, a year after he had been elected as a Labour MP. “In May 2006 I got a phone call,” he recalled. “The Downing Street switchboard rang to say the Prime Minister was on the phone. ‘Ed’, he said, ‘you’ve had a good first year as an MP so I’ve decided to send you to Northern Ireland to be a minister.'” “Northern Ireland is quite a tough job,” Mr Balls explained, “and I was expecting to go to the Treasury with my expertise so I was a silent for a few seconds. Then Tony Blair went ‘arrghh I was only joking’. You’re going to be working in the Treasury,” he laughed.

At this point you can imagine them all laughing together like the rum ending of a children’s cartoon, everything having worked out ok in the end. Ha-fudgy-ha. Northern Ireland. Ha ha. Still, I wonder if Balls has spent the last three months telling anyone who will listen where his expertise lies. His perseverance looks to have paid off.

PS: Nigel Sutton’s photo of student eyes glazing over as Balls speaks is worth the 60p cover price for the Ham and High in itself.

PPS: Tony Blair knows how to play a prank, doesn’t he? Did he play the same trick on every MP who had been brazenly angling for a place in his cabinet? I can think of a few other candidates whose expectant faces would have dropped if he had joked they were off to Northern Ireland.

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