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 deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Harriet Harman warns that the Brexit debate has been dominated by men

The former deputy leader hit out at the marginalisation of women's voices in the EU referendum campaign.

The EU referendum campaign has been dominated by men, Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman warns today. The veteran MP, who was acting Labour leader between May and September last year, said that the absence of female voices in the debate has meant that arguments about the ramifications of Brexit for British women have not been heard.

Harman has written to Sharon White, the Chief of Executive of Ofcom, expressing her “serious concern that the referendum campaign has to date been dominated by men.” She says: “Half the population of this country are women and our membership of the EU is important to women’s lives. Yet men are – as usual – pushing women out.”

Research by Labour has revealed that since the start of this year, just 10 women politicians have appeared on the BBC’s Today programme to discuss the referendum, compared to 48 men. On BBC Breakfast over the same time period, there have been 12 male politicians interviewed on the subject compared to only 2 women. On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, 18 men and 6 women have talked about the referendum.

In her letter, Harman says that the dearth of women “fails to reflect the breadth of voices involved with the campaign and as a consequence, a narrow range [of] issues ends up being discussed, leaving many women feeling shut out of the national debate.”

Harman calls on Ofcom “to do what it can amongst broadcasters to help ensure women are properly represented on broadcast media and that serious issues affecting female voters are given adequate media coverage.” 

She says: "women are being excluded and the debate narrowed.  The broadcasters have to keep a balance between those who want remain and those who want to leave. They should have a balance between men and women." 

A report published by Loughborough University yesterday found that women have been “significantly marginalised” in reporting of the referendum, with just 16 per cent of TV appearances on the subject being by women. Additionally, none of the ten individuals who have received the most press coverage on the topic is a woman.

Harman's intervention comes amidst increasing concerns that many if not all of the new “metro mayors” elected from next year will be men. Despite Greater Manchester having an equal number of male and female Labour MPs, the current candidates for the Labour nomination for the new Manchester mayoralty are all men. Luciana Berger, the Shadow Minister for mental health, is reportedly considering running to be Labour’s candidate for mayor of the Liverpool city region, but will face strong competition from incumbent mayor Joe Anderson and fellow MP Steve Rotheram.

Last week, Harriet Harman tweeted her hope that some of the new mayors would be women.  

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.