Balls vs Osborne – a review


I watched the Banking regulation debate yesterday.

I’ve watched a lot of “debates”. Watched literally hundreds of parliamentarians stand at the despatch box by now.

I have never seen a better performance than Ed Balls gave yesterday. As Louis Walsh might say, “He owned  the stage”

We can descend into a bit of partisan point scoring, but there’s just no denying he was masterful. He controlled the House like a conductor, riding the cat calls and jeers with humour and confidence, his oration soaring and swooping from loud and commanding to quiet and dripping with authority.

Most interestingly, when they jokes and jibes settled down and he spoke seriously, the entire House fell silent in a way I’ve rarely seen before.

As he leant on his arm, his hair swept across, he actually reminded me of that other great orator who held the House in the palm of his hand. Both he and Nye Bevan overcame stutters to create such magic in parliament.

When he warned that the Government were making a grave mistake, he held Osborne’s eye, spoke quietly and again the House fell silent.

By the time Osborne stood up, he must have felt bruised. His pip-squeaky voice and unruly quiff gave the air of Little Lord Fauntleroy, a 6th form debater so out of his depth, it may have been better for all if he’d just wandered off and found William Hague.

He had only one thing to say ; “They started it Miss!” – over and over in a playground loop, nothing to say, nothing to add, no way forward, no panache, no charm, no charisma, no confidence. Just a little-boy-lost on the world’s stage.

I’ve seen right wing commentators write articles on how partisan and lowly the debate was. Well no, your man was just an embarrassment. This boy-child is our Chancellor! He is the man tasked with getting us out of the worst financial crisis in living memory. HE is the one who needs to persuade, to charm, to cajole and to inspire.

On yesterday’s evidence he simply is not up to the job. Not in any way at all.

But this interested me : When they all trooped back after the vote, Osborne was a changed man. He seemed weak with relief, quieter, conciliatory. Even smaller and more insignificant – if that were even possible. Immediately, his aides started to brief the BBC’s Nick Robinson that, no, in fact, he withdraw accusations that Balls had been involved in the Libor fixing scandal.

It was clear that this vote had been much, much, more important to him than us mere mortals could know. I wonder who had made George so determined to avoid a judge led enquiry that he would mislead the House repeatedly to discredit his opposite number, only to withdraw the accusations as soon as the vote had passed?

How desperate must he have been to flirt with a libel case to make his oh-so-shabby and pointless case?

This man is our Chancellor – one of the most powerful men in the world. The Conservative Party should be deeply ashamed by both his performance and his character after yesterday’s debate. For all our sakes,  they should find a politician who could actually manage the job. And they should do it fast. He holds all of our futures in his slippery hands.

This post was originally published here.

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