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Damian McBride tells The Spectator: I spoke to Ed Balls every week

26 September 2013

1:17 PM

26 September 2013

1:17 PM

When the Damian McBride scandal blew up, Ed Balls was quick to distance himself from his former colleague saying he spoke to ‘Mr McBride’ once or twice and had dealings with him when they worked in Treasury but had not had much contact since. I remember Ben Brogan (then at the Mail) blogging: ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’ (they have taken his blog down since). It summed up the reaction of most  at Westminster. The widespread assumption was that Damian McBride and Ed Balls were key members of a close-knit group of people (eight of them, I later found out) around Gordon Brown.

McBride is a guest in this week’s Spectator podcast, and I asked him about Balls. His account is difficult to reconcile with Ed Balls’s ‘Damian who?’ approach to all this”

‘So what  I mean is, I became Head of Communications at the Treasury in September 2003, he was gone by mid-2004, so we had that quite short period until he became an MP when we were working very closely together. Then when he had his own department, I’d say I was at that stage maybe speaking to him once a week, and we would have a sort of wrap-up of what he was doing in his own department, and that kind of thing, particularly when he was under pressure on particular issues. And then he would say, ‘How’s everything over there?’, and that was kind of the nature of the discussion.’

So McBride at the Treasury would have weekly discussions with Ed Balls, who was then Schools Secretary. I wonder how many other Cabinet members had weekly discussions with special advisers from other departments?


I also ask him if Balls sent him on any ‘black ops’. He replied that, if Balls would blurt something out to journalists at a lunch, he’d ask McBride to persuade them not to run it (usually by offering another story in exchange). As McBride says in his book, this is how it worked: McBride would gather intelligence from his position inside government, give it to a group of journalists from whom he would call in favours. And if this meant briefing against Labour colleagues, well, so be it.

I’m midway through McBride’s book: it’s brilliant. In a kind of horrific way. No matter how bad you thought things were then, he’ll convince you that they were much worse. And of that group, only Ed Balls is still at large. No wonder he’s so keen to distance himself from the man whose opinion and services he seemed to rely on so much.

Anyway, here’s the podcast – the Balls bit is 21 mins in. You can subscribe to the View from 22 through iTunes and have it delivered to your computer every week, or you can use the embedded player below:

Listen to Fraser Nelson interview Damian McBride

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Show comments
  • Peter Stroud

    It is clear; in fact I guess it has always been clear; that Balls is just another pathological liar. And we must remember, he might well be chancellor in less than two years time.

  • London Calling

    Birds of a feather,stick together……………………:)

  • ButcombeMan

    “only Ed Balls is still at large”

    Hardly, Red Ed is nominally in charge and very much at large.

    Your original article was very good Fraser.

    Now why has no member of the Bubble, questioned exactly what role the Great Leader is fulfilling now? Is he having secret plotting meetings with either Red Ed or Balls ?

    I think he is. I do not think he has been absolutely discarded. His project, may be alive and well, but concealed. At the heart of it was ridding the party of Blairism and removing the “New” from New Labour.

  • HJ777

    So Balls is a liar with little credibility.

    Who knew?

    • Andy

      Me !

    • Greenslime

      A rhetorical “who didn’t know?” would have been more appropriate and would have resulted in a silent room.

  • Mynydd

    I wonder what Mr Cameron and Mr Coulson talked about each day. I don’t know if it was about the test match or about using his contacts in NI to plant anti-Blair/Brown stories. Guess we’ll have to wait the trial.

    • HookesLaw

      There is nothing wrong in planting stories if they are true. Whether its a good idea is another matter.There is nothing ‘wrong’ in planting stories against members of your own government – its just ultimately not a very good idea.

      There is certainly nothing wrong with a Conservative press spokesman rubbishing socialist leaders – its what he is paid for.

      In case you had forgotten, McBride was sacked for spreading lies.

      • Andy

        But there is something wrong in leaking Official Secrets. That’s a crime.

    • Russell

      Which in what way relates to a story about Labour, Balls & McBride?

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      And when and if Mr Coulson writes a confessional book we can then debate said book. Sadly for you, we are debating the efforts of the loathsome Mr McBride and his association with the infinitely more loathsome Mr Balls.

      • Wessex Man

        Don’t forget Brown and Miliband!

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Apologies. How did those two scumbags slip my mind?

        • FrenchNewsonlin

          and the scurvy Derek Draper.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Oh come now. Coulson was smearing the OTHER side, which is what these people are supposed to do. The story here is that Brown/Balls/McBride were smearing their OWN side. Do you see the difference?

  • HookesLaw

    Gone by mid 2004 but was economic secretary to the treasury by May 2006 (and an MP by May 2005) – so not really away at all.
    ‘blurt something out at a lunch’ … Come off it this is just a joke.

    And since you list Miliband in your gang of eight, its fair to say that the labour leadership is now continuity Brown.

  • sarahsmith232

    who was smearing Chukka Umunna? CU is a threat to who exactly? mainly Balls. the CU smearing was all coming out the Labour camp, that was obvious. mmm, so who could it have been? mmm. . . .

  • Fergus Pickering

    Good Heavens, are we to believe McBride rather than George Washington Balls?

    • Colonel Mustard

      We used to refer to the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea but having just watched Balls’ snorting inanities on the Daily Politics I don’t think deep comes into it.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Good point. I have dropped the phrase and now say: “I was caught between the lying scumbag and a Labour politician” whenever faced with a situation where both alternatives are equally loathsome.