Coffee House

Ed Balls: I didn’t know McBride was briefing against ministers

23 September 2013

8:57 AM

23 September 2013

8:57 AM

Ed Balls was in a bullish mood this morning when he did his round of broadcast interviews. The Shadow Chancellor did his best to get all huffy when it was put to him that the Tories don’t much like his idea that the OBR should audit party manifestos, saying:

‘I not only want it to happen, I think it will happen. So because the Conservative party will play party politics with trying to give the public reassurance that all parties’ manifestos add up, to rebuild trust in politics, then it won’t happen? That’s their choice, but I don’t think that’s what they’ll do.’

But he saved his real righteous indignation for the section of the interview on Damian McBride. ‘To be honest nobody ever came to me and complained about Damian McBride,’ he said. ‘I didn’t pass on those complaints to Gordon Brown. I didn’t complain about Damian McBride, because I don’t think until we saw the revelations in this book, we didn’t know what was going on.’


This sounds a bit implausible: one of the key points about the McBride extracts so far has really been that we did know that this was going on, but that the former spin doctor has brought a vague picture into sharp relief. His revelations haven’t been surprising, even though they have been horrifying. So it’s odd that while everyone else knew vaguely what the book would reveal, Balls claims ignorance entirely.

But the Shadow Chancellor didn’t quite finish there. He said:

‘I didn’t know that Damian McBride was doing personal briefings against ministers. The first time I’d found out was when I saw the text of that hideous email in 2009, and I said to Damian “what have you done? How could it come to this?”.’

So Balls did know something, clearly, by 2009. But his claim that he had no idea McBride was briefing against ministers seems to have left those journalists who were in the lobby at the time with a grim smile on their faces.

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Show comments
  • Adrian Wainer

    Ed Balls, Lord Adonis etc it sounds like a cast from a gay movie out of Chatsworth Cali. Come to think of it, the face Balls is making it looks like he has just given Gordon Brown a BJ.

    Tomboy – It’s OK to be Gay (lyrics)

  • rtj1211

    Damian McBride was indeed a silent assassin, it would seem.

    Forgive me if I snort with derision at the unsightly stream of New Labour Cabinet members who have learned selective amnesia from their great He-Devil, Rupert Murdoch…….

  • Greenslime

    The deliberate insult to our intelligence just makes me want to type pages of profanity. The man is either a despicable liar or is hiding his blindness and deafness with remarkable skill.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      I think you will find he manages to do both.

  • Wessex Man

    liar, liar, house on fire!

    • Erictheowl

      Which one – the one he claims for, or the one his lovely wife claims for?

  • GUBU


  • HJ777

    Pull the other one, Ed.

  • M. Wenzl

    Look at him! That’s hunger in his eyes! Hunger for victory.

    • Erictheowl

      No, that’s just rampant insanity and bat-crap crazyness.

      • M. Wenzl

        Same thing, no?

  • Peter Stroud

    As my Grannie used to say: “pull the other leg Ed, this one’s got bells on it.”

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    0/10 for truth telling, 11/10 for chutzpah and the same for self-deception if he thinks that anyone will believe him. The chain of command, as McBride confirms went from Brown to Balls and thence to McBride et al.

    • Erictheowl

      ‘To be honest nobody ever came to me and complained about Damian McBride,’ he said. No wonder – it was pretty well known that McBride was Balls’ creature, and did his bidding.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Oh dear, how dire. Perhaps this obnoxious git should be reminded that the OBR was created in 2010 in response to 13 years of Labour playing fast and loose with the budget, so slagging off the Tories about its role is not credible.

    “The Office for Budget Responsibility was created in 2010 to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances. It is one of a growing number of official independent fiscal watchdogs around the world.”

    The clue is the word ‘public’. The one playing party politics is Balls in trying to shunt the OBR into underwriting Labour’s proposed budget plans (which are not part of the public finances) before the election. If it did that it could compromise the credibility and independence of any future analysis of Labour managed public finances when in government. When things went wrong (as they would) Labour would bleat “But the OBR gave us a green light” (the duplicitous bastards just love blaming anyone but themselves for their crimes).

    The man is a malevolent half-wit like the troll who idolises him here. On this occasion Cameron is correct to stress the essential neutral status of the OBR.

    As for McBride – Goebbels ‘Big Lie’ springs to mind.

    • Mynydd

      What you really saying is: The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) can approve the budget plan in the Conservative Party manifesto, on the grounds that they are present government, and responsible for the public finances. Yet disallowing other parties an independent and authoritative analysis of its manifesto spending, borrowing and taxation plans. And you call this, the essential neutral status of OBR.

      “But the OBR gave us a green light” (the duplicitous bastards just love blaming anyone but themselves for their crimes)” Yes I agree this is just what as happened under Mr Cameron/Osborne. They just love blaming Labour for everything, as if there had been no international banking crisis.

      The problem for your Mr Cameron/Osborne is, by this move Mr Miliband/Balls have put pay to their only attack, you cannot trust Labour, they don’t say how to pay for their spending.

      • telemackus

        Are you deliberately obtuse or just plain thick? The OBR cannot approve a party’s spending plans and this will include the conservative, lib dem, labour, UKIP and any other party. Try and keep up.

        • Wessex Man

          keep up with what? you can’t keep up with the fog!

        • Mynydd

          I am just plain thick, but It is long overdue that political parties (Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, Greens and all the others) are held to account for their manifestoes by an independent and authoritative body such as the OBR.

          • telemackus

            Political parties are held to account by the electorate – that is the nature of democracy. When they are held to account by 3rd parties then that is the beginning of a dictatorship by the unelected. Try and keep up.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            No it is the job of the electorate to do that not a taxpayer funded quango. You are correct however in the admission that you are just plain thick.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          She is just plain thick.

      • Colonel Mustard

        What am I really saying is what I wrote not your re-interpretation of it so that you can then launch your challenge.

        The OBR audits the government’s public finances, regardless of which party is in power. I wouldn’t expect them to “approve” any proposed budget plan in any party’s manifesto and it could be argued that to do so would always disadvantage the party in opposition. The OBR has four main roles (from their own website):

        1. To produce five-year forecasts for the economy and public finances twice a year. The forecasts accompany the Chancellor’s Budget Statement (usually in March) and his Autumn Statement (usually in late November) and they incorporate the impact of any tax and spending measures announced by the Chancellor. The details of the forecasts are set out in our Economic and fiscal outlook (EFO) publications. Their annual Forecast evaluation report (FER) published each Autumn, examines how the EFO forecasts compare to subsequent outturns.

        2. They use their public finance forecasts to judge the Government’s performance against its fiscal targets: The Government has set itself two medium-term fiscal targets: first, to balance the cyclically-adjusted current budget five years ahead, and; second, to have public sector net debt falling in 2015-16. In the EFO, they assess whether it has a greater than 50 per cent probability of hitting these targets under current policy. They also test how robust this judgement is, given the uncertainty inherent in all fiscal forecasts.

        3. They scrutinise the Treasury’s costing of tax and welfare spending measures: During the run-up to Budgets and Autumn statements, they subject the Government’s draft costings of tax and spending measures to detailed challenge and scrutiny. They then state in the EFO and the Treasury’s policy costing documents whether they endorse the costings that the Government finally publishes as reasonable central estimates.

        4. They assess the long-term sustainability of the public finances: Their annual Fiscal sustainability report sets out long-term projections for different categories of spending, revenue and financial transactions, and assesses whether they imply a sustainable path for public sector debt. The FSR also analyses the health of the public sector’s balance sheet using both conventional National Accounts measures and the Whole of Government Accounts prepared using commercial accounting principles.

        This puts government budget plans under much closer scrutiny than Labour’s proposed budget plans which use the same presumptions of not seeing the books as all opposition parties.

        I get no impression that the Coalition “loves” blaming Labour but the fact remains that Labour were in power for 13 years and must bear accountability for the consequences of their policies during those 13 years and which the current Coalition are trying to resolve. As much as Labour supporters complain that the Coalition blames Labour those same supporters try to switch all responsibility for the dire state of public finances to the banking crisis which is not credible.

        Balls’ proposal is a typical Labour ploy. Sounds good to the public (the way it is spun) and makes that direct leftist appeal that no “reasonable” person ought to oppose it (emotive intimidation), without the real nitty-gritty having to be openly debated. Immediately the Conservatives can be put on the defensive as anti-progressive and reactionary even though Balls knows his proposal is hopelessly impractical. Playing party politics? Indeed Balls is. Labour’s political posture is to constantly attack – Brown was doing that even as PM with an unassailable majority. Instead of attacking Labour the Coalition is wrestling with government and trying to defend against Labour’s attacks. There is a huge difference between the two imperatives and that difference is why I hate Labour and all it stands for. They are only interested in obtaining power but not the responsibilities that go with it.

        And they are not “my” Mr Cameron/Osborne.

        • Abhay

          That is a fantastic response Colonel. Also, your comments on Balls are spot on.

          One could still argue whether such ‘independent’ bodies are really needed. They have been mushrooming over the last decade or so and have added to the continual expansion of the state and / or its bureaucracies even though characterised as ‘independent’.

          In a sense, the growing number of such ‘independent’ bureaucracies also signify the depletion of trust in body politic. And confidence.

          • Mynydd

            It is long overdue that political parties are held to account for their manifestoes by an independent and authoritative body such as the OBR.

            • Abhay

              Why? Have you lost faith in democracy?
              In a mature democracy the political parties are accountable to the voters. Their manifesto should be under public-scrutiny. And when they govern they should do that with the consent of the voting populace.
              The power that the voter should exercise should not become the preserve of a bureaucracy.

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              And who will pay for this audit? Oh let me guess, the private sector taxpayer whether he or she wants to or not.

        • Mynydd

          In March 2015 Mr Osborne will present his budget to parliament following its approval by the OBR. One month later this budget will be in the Conservative party’s manifesto as their spend, borrowing and taxation plan. Thus the budget is the manifesto. Now fast forward to the general election leaders debate. One, if not the first point will be about each party’s spend, borrowing and taxation plans. Does Mr Cameron say my plan is the only one approved by the OBR, I say this because as Prime Minister I stopped the OBR running their slide rule over the Lib Dem and Labour plans.

          For sure this move will sound good to the public. It is long overdue that political parties are held to account for their manifestoes by an independent and authoritative body such as the OBR.

          • Colonel Mustard

            “Does Mr Cameron say my plan is the only one approved by the OBR, I say this because as Prime Minister I stopped the OBR running their slide rule over the Lib Dem and Labour plans.”

            I don’t know what he will say but you are saying it for him.
            You don’t seem to understand this very well. What do you think would happen if the OBR endorsed the government’s plans but not the Labour party’s – or vice versa? The very independence and neutrality of the OBR would be compromised and undermined because it would become part of the party political campaign machinery. The OBR exists precisely to prevent the management of public finances becoming a political football.

            And it was created in part due to Brown’s sleight of hand in managing the public finances with his various tricks and off-book accounting methods. I can see why Balls might want to create a situation where the OBR was discredited because that would serve him very well if and when he starts cooking the books like his master should Labour win the election.

            • andagain

              What do you think would happen if the OBR endorsed the government’s plans but not the Labour party’s – or vice versa? The very independence and neutrality of the OBR would be compromised and undermined because it would become part of the party political campaign machinery.

              Depressingly enough, I think you are very probably right about this effect on the OBR. It would be nice, though, to have some reliable means of checking the budgetary claims of the opposition in the run up to an election.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Colnel, a brilliant and patient response to an undeserving idiot and 1,000 up ticks if it were possible. I disagree however with your contention that Labour were in power for 13 years because that would imply that Britain had a government between 1997 and 2010. I would argue that instead we had a civil war between two camps of mendacious stinkers who managed to stop fighting for just long enough to squander an unprecedented amount of public money in furtherance of their respective causes. Frankly, the odious Mr McBride seems to be one of the saner members of these two lunatic factions.

          • Colonel Mustard

            I take your point but that was one reason I wrote “in power” and not “in government”. At times it felt like a foreign occupation and it was very clear the power was being abused and not to the advantage or benefit of the British, especially English people.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Firstly, the OBR is there to interrogate the validity of the financial proposals of the incumbent government be it Conservative, Labour or Coalition. It does not exist to underwrite the proposals of a political party which is not currently in power otherwise they would spend every day auditing the efforts of UKIP, Monster Raving Looney, The Green Party etc etc or do you think an OBR audit should be made available exclusively to the Labour Party? Second, the OBR is funded by the taxpayer and thus must not, under any circumstances, be used to further the ambitions of a political party. Of course, you can argue that that is what it is doing for the Conservatives and Liberals but they are in government and actually spending our money and not proposing to spend it like Labour and every other political party. Labour can, by all means, employ PWC (a large accountancy practice) to audit its proposals but I doubt that a technically bankrupt outfit like Labour could afford the fees, hence Ed ball’s desire to waste more public money. Finally, It occurs to me that the level of debate on this site is simply too much for somebody as obviously stupid as you are and that you should perhaps look elsewhere to make your fatuous comments.

        • telemackus

          I think you were replying to the lovely Yvette Cooper or perhaps the drone Rachel Reeves. But perhaps I am being unkind, Ms Mynydd is not THAT thick.

  • toco10

    What nonsense!Next he will be claiming he,Red Ed and Yvette Balls/Cooper were not at The Treasury with the dysfunctional and unpleasant Gordon Brown,McBride, and Charlie Whelan and had no contact with Dolly Draper.Labour really is the nasty Party in British politics and has always left the economy in a total mess.Add its cynical immigration policy to the mix and it becomes clear that Labour is solely interested in worsening the lives of hard working British people.

    • Russell

      Not forgetting the new ‘thinking’ which means if a company takes a specialist IT immigrant from India, Pakistan or China they are going to forced by law to take in an EU apprentice (perhaps from Bulgaria or Romania!).
      How can anyone with a grain of intelligence vote for this disgraceful dysfunctional group of incompetents?

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Because anybody who votes Labour does not have a grain of intelligence I am afraid.

  • FrenchNewsonlin

    (Great pic!) Guido reported a Balls connection back among his first McPoison exposes. Balls might want to try a little Googling before his emissions. Among other links….:

  • Andy

    The man is an unprincipled liar. He is a complete imbecile. Does he seriously think that WE, the public, actually believe any of this mindless drivel ?

  • Chris lancashire

    No Ed, it wos big boys wot done it and they’ve run away.

    • HookesLaw

      So at best and by his own admission Balls is incompetent.

  • telemackus

    Were his pants on fire when he said all this?

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Eight fire engines were needed to put out the blaze so I heard. But then the fat oaf does have very big underpants.