Ed Balls reflects on losing his seat. Photo: BBC screengrab
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"I had hours of uncertainty": Ed Balls recalls the pain of his election night defeat

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the former shadow chancellor reflects on Labour's defeat and losing his seat.

Labour's former shadow chancellor Ed Balls has given an exclusive interview to the BBC about Labour's defeat and losing his seat.

He recalls how he came to realise his precarious position on election night, when he eventually lost Morley & Outwood to the Tories after an agonising recount:

I didn’t know that I was actually going to lose my seat until the returning officer gave us the result at 7.30 in the morning, so I had hours of uncertainty.

He tells Nick Robinson that before then, he "thought it was a real possibility" that he would be heading to No 11 as Chancellor.

In a reflective and almost emotional interview, Balls says: "Politics is a brutal business, and it’s tough . . . You can be here today and gone tomorrow, and that is democracy. In the end, although it’s hard for me, I am a symbol of the vibrancy of our democracy."

When asked if he was one of the reasons Labour was not elected, he replies: "Of course . . . All of us have to bear our share of the responsibility . . . He [Ed Miliband] didn’t persuade people he could be the prime minister, but I didn’t persuade people that I could be the chancellor either."

Reflecting on his differences with Miliband, Balls admits, "I think I wanted to be more pro-business, but I also backed Ed Miliband 100 per cent . . . in the end, neither he or I persuaded people."

When asked about whether he would go back into politics, Balls smiles "No by-elections . . . Outside of politics – that’s how I’m thinking about things." He says he won't be "dashing back to politics", and wants to write about economics, but does add "never say never" when asked about whether he will end up with a politics-related career. Strictly sounds unlikely though: "Well, look, three marathons mean I’m fit, but am I really fit enough for Strictly?"

He also reveals that he will be playing no part in his wife Yvette Cooper's campaign to be Labour leader: "I’m going to be supporting and voting for Yvette of course . . . I’m not going to play any part in her campaign, that’s her campaign and they’re her ideas, that’s not for me," he says, adding that he will "do more to help the rest of the family".

Watch the full interview here.

 

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times