Coffee House

Is Ed Balls scared of Question Time?

13 March 2014

13 March 2014

Like it or not, Question Time is Britain’s most popular forum for political debate. Two million viewers regularly tune in, and Thursday evenings on BBC1 is when and where ordinary people are most likely to encounter a secretary of state or shadow cabinet minister. For politicians, it’s a golden opportunity — a huge audience to which they can sell both themselves and their party’s policies.

The choice of guests usually causes an uproar on Twitter — mostly along the lines of ‘why is X appearing again? ‘ and ‘ I’m sick of seeing Y party getting so much airtime’ — but who actually appears most frequently? Digging into to the IMDB’s comprehensive database of Question Time appearances, this is how many times major Tory and Labour figures have appeared since 2004 (NB: I’ve kept equal the numbers from the Tories and Labour, and roughly equal the politicians’ positions too):

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You can see that, contrary to what most people think, Nigel Farage isn’t Question Time’s most frequent guest. That honour goes to Ken Clarke, who has appeared 23 times in the last decade. Unlike many of his government colleagues — Michael Gove and George Osborne for example — Clarke has appeared almost as many times in government as in opposition. It’s easy to see why his party want Clarke on air. As a veteran of the Major and Thatcher governments, he’s easily recognisable. He is affable, friendly and persuasive. And, without a portfolio, he doesn’t have to do detail, which allows him to roam across the political terrain. Arguably, he’s the anti-Farage.

The second notable thing is the lack of appearances by Ed Balls. Out of the major Labour politicians in the chart above, only shadow education minister Tristram Hunt and shadow defence minister Vernon Coaker have appeared fewer times — and they’ve only been shadow ministers for only six months. Even Chuka Umunna, who’s only been an MP since 2010, has had made more appearances than Balls. Here’s the chart again, showing just Labour politicians:

But what it doesn’t show is that Balls has been on Question Time only once since he was appointed Shadow Chancellor? It’s a little odd, considering that George Osborne appeared seven times in his five years holding the shadow brief. When I asked Balls’s office whether this was due to lack of invitations, lack of time or for other reasons, a spokesman said:

‘He’s been on the programme four times in the last four years – I’m sure he’ll be on again in the run up to the election’.

In fairness, Balls hasn’t been completely absent from our TV screens – he appeared on The Andrew Marr Show three times in 2013 alone. But you have to ask: why isn’t Balls in front of a mass audience more often? George Osborne has an five-point lead in being seen as the most credible Chancellor. You’d think Balls would grab every chance he could get.


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Show comments
  • Thomtids

    If Brown was the truly incompetent Stalinist Chancellor, then Balls was the ideologist Beria behind the self-fulfilling economic catastrophe he now attributes in its entirety to the “Worldwide Depression”. Balls is the thug he appears to be. Having undergone ‘a’ or ‘many’ course/s on “body language for communicators”, he clearly has been told to ensure that he does not blink when telling porkies. The result has been that hoisting his eyelids into rabid, mad-dog mode so that a complete ring of white shows around the pupil, giving the communicator not so much an aura of truth but deranged insanity, Balls refusal to accept even a smidgen of responsibility for the utter debacle of National bankruptcy simply confirms his mental status.
    As for our Balls attempt to reposition his persona closer to Albert Schweitzer rather Albert Kesselring, by playing the piano, I find it more adjacent to the character of the Abominable Dr Phibes as played by Vincent Price. I just don’t see a happy ending for “Mad Dog” Balls. I mean, can you see him playing happily with Chukku, other than trying to rip his throat out and gnaw off his plaque on his hip-bone!

  • llanystumdwy

    Another reason why Balls would not want to go on QT is that he might be asked some difficult questions by others who can expose his lies and inconsistencies. He has clearly picked up this habbit from his old boss Brown, who is never to be seen when asked difficult questions.

  • D Whiggery

    I think that point is that Farage had probably only been on once or twice until 3-4 years ago and since then he’s rocketed to second place. If the chart was from 2009 instead of 2004 he’d be first no question.

  • London Calling

    He’s scared witless………:O

  • southerner

    A left wing lib/lab/con panel, a left wing presenter and a left wing rent a mob. Can’t think that there’s anything for him to be scared about.

  • George_Arseborne

    Why don’t you say he is scare by the media as a whole. This is just rubbish.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “This is just rubbish.”

      You can say that again – so why do you keep posting it?

  • Colonel Mustard
  • Will Rees

    Ed Balls was on the news today, at a playgroup, trying to get things to balance by putting all his eggs in one basket. I kid you not

    • Wessex Man

      hur hur!

  • The_Average_Joe_UK

    Its the economy stupid. He knows nothing about it.

  • jason green

    Sebastian your link is out of date. The latest Ipsos Mori poll is Osborne 38%, Balls 33%,

    • Makroon

      Yeah, funny that – the less Balls appears, the more popular he gets….

  • John Smith

    Too slimey, stutters too much, reminds people of Brown, McBride, McGuire et al ?

  • HookesLaw

    Given the disclosures that Dimbelby has been instructed to go soft on Labour then it looks like Balls has nothing to fear.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2579619/Was-Dimbleby-told-easy-Labour-guest-Question-Time-Leaked-note-reveals-presenter-urged-ask-questions-Tory-Lord-Heseltine.html
    ‘Was Dimbleby told to go easy on Labour guest on
    Question Time? Leaked note reveals presenter was urged to ask more
    questions to Tory Lord Heseltine’

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2579619/Was-Dimbleby-told-easy-Labour-guest-Question-Time-Leaked-note-reveals-presenter-urged-ask-questions-Tory-Lord-Heseltine.html#ixzz2vrsMwIg5

    What this also seems to indicate is that Dimbleby’s asides to guests are not his own ‘off the cuff’ remarks but carfefully scripted lines given to him by hidden BBC producers.

    • Wessex Man

      oh dear Hooky, you and your conspiracy theories, you’re reading too too much of the Daily Mail fairytales!

  • RavenRandom

    Balls is many unpleasant things. But he isn’t dumb. He knows he’s electoral poison and sensibly he doesn’t appear in the relatively uncontrolled environment of QT. That’s why he appears in print and maybe on Marr; less chance for the public to see through to the power hungry dissembler beneath.

  • Michael Mckeown

    he’s the anti-Farage….. that was funny.

  • johnt2539

    Contrary to the graph above, Michael Gove has appeared on QT since the start of this Government – his famous and excellent “Yadda Yadda” speech in March 2013.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/cristinaodone/100208542/yadda-yadda-michael-gove-brings-down-the-house-as-he-slaps-down-emily-thornberry-on-question-time/

  • JuliusHMarx

    I cannot believe that the only conclusion that is drawn from the chart above is that Ed Balls is scared, this may be true but what about George Osborne, he has not appeared once since becoming Chancellor. What are the conclusions that can be drawn about his failure to articulate the reasons for the measures that he has instituted, whether you agree with them or not?

    • RavenRandom

      Very sensible for Chancellors and PMs (especially Conservative ones) to stay away form the rent a left wing mob which constitutes the QT audience.

      • Makroon

        Indeedy. I think Payney is having a laugh (or trying to increase his post count). That circus lost any credibility yonks ago.
        For political junkies, only Marr and Neil are worth watching.
        QT is a poor substitute for Spitting Image.
        Balls is desperately trying to reboot himself as this friendly, nice guy who loves children and hamming it up – poncing around with Dimblebore wouldn’t help.

  • Slim Jim

    The answer to your question, ”Why isn’t Balls in front of a mass audience more often?” is because he comes across as a nasty, spluttering, evasive, arrogant and thoroughly unlike-able man. He’s not particularly photogenic (not that that should matter, but it does nowadays) and probably loses his party some votes every time he appears on the screen. Together with his old boss, he managed to facilitate the worst economic record of any UK government in living memory. Next question?

    • HookesLaw

      I like to think its because he is a decent person at heart and wants to spare us bursting our blood vessels.

      • george

        it would stimulate the economy if he did appear … I and many others would likely have to buy new tv’s after we heave bricks at his image.

    • telemachus

      Absolutely and utterly wrong
      He is the most charismatic politician of today
      He is also a street fighting dog
      Mr Payne is steeped in mischief for reasons best known to himself
      We will hear a lot more of Ed Balls as the election approaches
      I have no doubt he will in due course replace Miliband as PM

      • RavenRandom

        Tele,
        Your persistence is impressive, but no matter how sycophantic you are it’s ridiculous to claim he’s charismatic.

        • telemachus

          You clearly missed his magnificent performance just now on the six o’clock news with ex Young Tory Chair Nick Robinson

          • HookesLaw

            That was about as charismatic as a rancid tub of lard.
            Of course Robinson did not point out (because he is an incompetent idiot) that Ball’s policy was to spend more and borrow more and at the same time cut the deficit.
            Robinson did not point out that Ball’s prediction was that Osborne’s policy would lead to further recession and job losses. In fact we have more jobs than ever before and no further recession.
            In every respect Balls was catastrophically (not charismatically) wrong.

            • telemachus

              Forget economics
              The economy is now cruising to success
              What is important is that the pain necessary and accepted by Ed is shared equally

              • JackyTreehorn

                “The economy is now cruising to success” that’ll be thanks to the Tories. Praise indeed from a lefty. Thanks.

              • Thomtids

                Have you noticed that Brown poured at least £375 Billions of savers/investors money into the Economy by printing that amount against NO increase in output “value” and Cameron/ the Treasury confiscated £350 Billions from savers in non-payment of interest on Deposits?
                And how many jobs are by virtue of working tax credit and subsidised part-time appointments?
                The real Economy is still f***ed. Only porkies and statistics suggest the alternative. And as has been famously pointed out, a functioning Economy relies upon trust, not truth!

          • Two Bob

            Go and suck his p*nis if you love him that much.

            • telemachus

              I also love Yvette

              • Harold Angryperson

                Her fanny then

          • RavenRandom

            You are funny or do I mean strange? If you’re not Ed balls then I think he might want a restraining order.

            • telemachus

              There is little doubt that Ed is the core of the political future
              When he leads us to the successful 2020’s you will rue your doubt

              • RavenRandom

                Why would I rue it? If in the unlikely event you’re right, I should be pleasantly surprised… or is your statement actually a Stalinist threat?

          • Harold Angryperson

            The same Rick Nobinson who spent years uncritically regurgitating Labour press releases from the odious Campbell and his cronies?

            When Guido Fawkes broke the McBride dirty tricks story his main concern was waiting for Toenails’ absence on holiday before making a move as he knew that otherwise that the story ran a risk of being killed (at least at the BBC) by the faithful Labour lap dog.

          • anncalba

            Oh dear, best laugh I’ve had for a long time – and people still take this little self publicist seriously!

      • kyalami

        Excellent …. the more he’s on TV the better! We need Labour to lose and he’s the Tories number 1 asset.

        • telemachus

          Like Gove is our best recruiting agent

          • Wessex Man

            now listen here yo zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

            • telemachus

              Yes he makes us all so contented we can doze

              • Wessex Man

                you certainly seem to send m zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

          • grutchyngfysch

            It’s not recruiting if they’re already members old chap.

      • Cooper cap

        I couldn’t imagine where that rubbish comes from – then I looked at the author’s handle. Nuff said.

        • telemachus

          Come the day when folk will look back and understand their fortune in living in the times of Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Yvette

          • Wessex Man

            THE MONEYS RU ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

            • telemachus

              Such contentment

              • Wessex Man

                rockabye baby with your little bouncy ball!

      • John Smith

        We will hear lots more, the dossiers are prepared & full
        The economic disasters has a couple of dossiers on its own

      • Ron Todd

        I think we muast have different ideas about what charismatic means.

        • telemachus

          Confess Ron
          He makes you smile at PMQ’s

          • Ron Todd

            The most pointless hand gestures since the Mandela funeral reminds me of the kid in class who tries to stop everybody else getting on with their work.

            • telemachus

              But he livens things up
              And makes us all smile
              Further he rattles Cameron

          • Wessex Man

            yeah this is true and laugh out lou zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

      • HookesLaw

        Street fighting dogs get put down

        • telemachus

          Not this one
          This one wins Crufts
          (or at least the Crufts of British Politics)

          • HookesLaw

            The dogs at Crufts are genetically modified to be the extremes of their breed.

            • telemachus

              Extreme indeed
              Politicians of his wit and charisma are rare

              • Airey Belvoir

                Agreed,and something to be thankful for.

          • Two Bob

            Proof you are just a wind up merchant. You dont really support Labour.

      • Colonel Mustard

        You are slipping. You haven’t managed to comment on everyone’s comment in this thread yet and this one is about your favourite Balls.

        Come on, let’s see a full house for your derangement.

      • Wessex Man

        I would have liked to put up the next verse of Eleanor Rigby here but it will be taken down like the first was following one of your pervious comments, ah well all the lonely people!

        • telemachus

          If taken down it is usually an offending word
          Suggest you copy before posting then retry with judicious stars

          • Harold Angryperson

            A Speccy insider indeed, as we have long suspected…

      • Two Bob

        Fighting dogs are good for nothing. They wont save lives or smell out criminals….

        • telemachus

          But they enhance the credibility of their associates

          • rugby god

            I actually think that the Speccie needs to stop you posting your bollocks or give me a refund. I am sick to death of reading this garbage your spew on every blog.

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              Hear, hear !

      • llanystumdwy

        And like his old boss, he will make sure that he will get the PM job without having to fight an election.

      • anncalba

        Was enjoying the first few posts, until up pops telemachus.

    • realfish

      I suspect that the man who wants the better-off to pay more tax, fears that an audience member might ask him the question his wife was asked on QT a few years back – about their house flipping; their capital gains tax avoidance.

      Mrs Balls, the woman who knows the answer to everything, was completely floored when asked which was their main residence. She claimed that she was unable to remember.

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