Ed Miliband has suffered the humiliation of being mocked by his shadow chancellor.
Perhaps eager to shift attention away from a series of his own gaffes, Ed Balls had fun at his leader’s expense in an interview with the New Statesman.
Asked where he met his wife and fellow Labour frontbencher Yvette Cooper, Mr Balls explains how they met through mutual friends on Hampstead Heath, a park in north London. “We weren’t collecting stories for speeches. It was just a walk,” Mr Balls joked, a reference to Mr Miliband’s bizarre decision to name drop a whole series of ‘ordinary people’ he had supposedly met while walking on Hampstead Heath last summer.
Encounters with Josephine, Xiomara, Rosie, Elizabeth and Gareth were all names Mr Miliband managed to remember in his speech at last autumn’s Labour party conference, while trivial matters such as the deficit and immigration were forgotten.
But Mr Balls has had his fair share of hiccups recently. He failed to recall the surname of a single businessman or woman who supported Labour in a Newsnight interview earlier this year and was forced to back-track after suggesting everyone should get a receipt for all handyman jobs. He also revealed in a radio phone-in show last month that he was a “long, slow burner” in bed, an image we are still trying to erase from our minds.
Reports have surfaced over recent weeks of a rift between the pair over Labour’s tuition fees policy, with Mr Balls reportedly angry over Mr Miliband’s refusal to budge over his pledge to cut fees to £6,000. One Labour MP told the New Statesman about the lack of respect Mr Balls had for his then leadership rival in 2010.
According to this MP, Mr Balls had declared during the contest: “There are two people who are up to this job: one’s David Miliband and one’s me.”
The MP also added that Mr Balls believed that Mr Miliband “hadn’t grown” since becoming Labour leader and felt “dreadfully sorry” about his failure to connect to voters.
Asked whether he had been guaranteed the job of chancellor if Labour do win the election, Mr Balls says he, like us, will have to wait and see. “I’m the shadow chancellor and we’re working really closely together on our plans, not just for the election but for government . . . I’ve not had that conversation and wouldn’t seek to do so. He’s the leader; these are his choices. I wouldn’t describe myself as a needy person.”
Mr Balls paints a surprisingly warmer picture of his relationship with his real arch-enemy George Osborne however.
“I know George Osborne much better than David Cameron,” Mr Balls explains. “He was a young, upcoming adviser and MP when I was in the Treasury. We’ve been to quite a few different international meetings; we’ve both been going to the Franco-British annual meeting pretty much every year for 20 years . . . I can have a drink with him and enjoy it.”