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Balls strikes at delicate Clegg

6 January 2011

4:16 PM

6 January 2011

4:16 PM

Ed Balls has been biding his time on Control Orders, but now he has struck. Writing on
his blog, he appealed for consensus on this ‘sensitive issue’.

‘I have told Theresa May that, wherever possible, I will support her over the counter-terrorism measures that must be taken in the national interest – and we will play our part in
building a new consensus for the future… that’s what a responsible Opposition should do.’

Balls knows that May favours retaining Control Orders, so perhaps this is a subtle endorsement of her position against the Lib Dems. He continues, conceding that he does not possess the facts. (The
Home Secretary, of course, does).

‘The decisions we take in this area should be determined above all by what the evidence shows. That’s why over the last few months I’ve been talking to experts on all sides
of the debate. But without seeing all the evidence for myself and seeing the conclusions of the review, I don’t think it is right for the Opposition to set out a definitive

Seemingly magnanimous, and then he cuts loose:

‘The same approach should apply to government ministers too…To jump to a pre-ordained conclusion without the necessary evidence or confidence…is not the responsible way to
proceed. Indeed, to talk about this issue in terms of ‘deals’ and ‘compromises’ that must be struck or ‘victories’ for a particular part of the coalition is
surely the wrong way to protect the national interest.

That’s why I am so concerned about the extraordinary briefings and counter-briefings – from different parts of the coalition government – which we have seen in the media
over the last few days, with Nick Clegg summing up the confusion on his visit to Oldham yesterday when he said “no deal is done”.

Nick Clegg’s slip reveals what I always feared – that the future of Control Orders has become a political tussle about keeping the coalition together, with a ‘crisis
summit’ apparently being convened in order to try to reach some sort of political deal.’

Balls is too clever by half. Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister and vital to the formation of coalition policy: of course he’ll have seen the evidence! But the point stands: the future
of Control Orders should not be determined by a political deal. So, Balls on song as an opposition politician once again; in acute contrast to Ed Miliband’s earlier effort on the Jeremy Vine Show.    

UPDATE: How bizarre. Now Balls has added that Mi5 and Scotland Year have told him they favour retaining control orders. James Kirkup reports, noting that it seems odd of the security services to be
briefing the opposition. Odd indeed, especially as Balls explicitly stated that he hadn’t heard the evidence in the blog referred to above. My those spooks move quickly, unless, that is, someone’s
been telling porkies.

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