The hall was full. Ish. Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor stepped to the podium. Much has been said of late about the problem of “pigmy politics,” and of the lack of substantial figures in British politics. Mr Balls is one of the counters to that analysis. He brings with him an air of weight, of heft—of menace also.
This morning, on Radio 4, he insisted that he had played no part in the internecine warfare of the Blair vs Brown days, and had certainly had no part in, and was unaware of, the activities of Damian McBride, Gordon Brown’s spin doctor and, it appears now, his punisher-in-chief. As he denied Mr McBride on Radio 4, Balls’s voice leaped sharply higher. Was it the unintentional descant of a man being economic with la verite? Or was he remembering moments at which Mr McBride had grabbed him on a politically sensitive point and squeezed tightly?
Either way, Balls stood at the podium today as a man who had spent the morning partly engaged in distancing himself from Brown-era murk, which was less than ideal. But it was to his credit that he still managed to deliver a speech of some substance.