Thought I’d get into The Ghostly writing business, since they’re all at it –
- À la mode of Harris & Polanski – TRUE FICTION – ‘The Prime Minister’s Mistress’ and
Comment at end
15th April 2010
UPDATE: With all that volcanic detritus coming down from “on high” will it darken the Manchester TV parade tonight? Air crew/politicians/journalists grounded? Be warned – the M60/M62, whichever one you get lost on, can be a real killer.
Ed Balls: “He didn’t really say that, did he?”
“Oh, yes he did”, said Gary Gibbon from Channel 4.
I was in the middle of writing about The Ghost (of Tony Blair/Polanski/Harris), but I had to break off so that you could read and watch this amazing press conference yesterday morning with Andrew Neil, full evidence provided below the short Balls-up video.
Labour’s manifesto Balls-up (41 secs)
BUT – OH NO HE DIDN’T, MR GIBBON
Evidently in response to an unrecorded question (what would Tony Blair think of the manifesto?) Peter Mandelson says:
“It’s such a New Labour manifesto I think he will be shining. He will be certainly grinning that – you remember that Blair grin from ear to ear? I think he’s got that on him today.”
It’s actually a bit of press spinning, to be fair to both Balls and Mandelson. Gibbon put Mandelson’s thoughts on Blair like this to Ed Balls:
“Peter Mandelson was saying he thought the spirit of Tony Blair was looking down with his signature smile on this event today. So much of the public sector reforms that he wanted getting into the manifesto here, stuff that we thought Gordon Brown objected to.”
So, oh no he didn’t really say anything about Blair’s ‘spirit looking down’, did he, Mr Gibbon?
Showing a longer video here at Channel 4 – “Balls-up? Ed Balls and the ghost of Blair” – it could be described, kindly, as a Mandelsonian of the first order. His Gordon Brown mast slipped temporarily and his true feelings showed. Except for two little things. Firstly, that Lord Mandelson said this the other day too. Secondly that little – very little passes the Mandelson lips without due care and consideration.
And here is a 7 minute video of the Labour party’s press conference. I almost feel sorry for Balls here. Almost.
Andrew Neil at New Labour press conference (14Apr10) (7:11)
Andy Burnham (Blairite) Health Secretary, Lord Peter Mandelson (Blairite/Brownite) and Ed Balls (Brownite) Secretary of State for Children, Schools & Families. A good (political) balance, eh?
From around 1:14 Andrew Neil asks Ed Balls –
Neil: “Why were you so shocked when Channel 4 News told you that Peter Mandelson had described the Labour manifesto as ‘Blair-plus’?”
There is some confusion over what had actually shocked Balls. It wasn’t the ‘Blair-plus’ reference that Neil mentioned but the “from on high”. Still, it’s fun watching Balls try to wriggle his way out of this, especially since his forgetting who was the prime minister compounds his discomfort:
Balls: “What actually happened was that Gary Gibbon came over and said “Peter has just said that the prime minister will be smiling down from on high on the manifesto…”
Interrupted by Mandelson, who taps his arm and corrects him – “Tony Blair”
He didn’t correct Balls’ misquote of the words “from on high”, though. The “on high” reference was probably an honest misunderstanding on Balls’ part – (listen to how Gibbon put it – “Mandelson said he thought the spirit of Tony Blair was looking down…”)
Balls: “The former prime minister, you’re right – that Tony Blair … said he was smiling down ‘from on high‘ – and as I tweeted to Krishnan [here, I reckon – http://twitter.com/krishgm] within ten minutes of the programme I was pretty sure that Tony Blair was still amongst us, and that was the reason why I was shocked.”
Notice Mandelson’s smile [from alongside/on high?] after this Balls attempt to sidestep the Blair issues.
Andrew Neil pulls him up: “No you didn’t … you went up to Gary Gibbon and said ‘is it really true that Peter Mandelson said this was Blair-plus’ …”
Balls finds himself seriously cornered and had to be rescued by Mandelson. Not exactly convincingly, but at least assuredly and competently. Two assets which, Mandelson and perhaps Alastair Darling aside, are sadly missing at the top of the governing party right now.
WOW, Peter. Talk about cats and bags.
“He didn’t really say that, did he?” Ed Balls is quizzed about his surprised reaction on Channel 4 News upon hearing Peter Mandelson’s reference to Blair’s grin … “from ear to ear”.
An exchange between Lord Mandelson, Ed Balls and Channel 4 News political editor Gary Gibbon was one of the hot topics of conversation at this morning’s Labour press conference.
On Monday, Gary Gibbon asked Peter Mandelson if the “ghost of Tony Blair” was haunting the launch of the Labour manifesto that day.
“I think the spirit of Tony Blair was alive and well”, he replied. “It’s such a New Labour manifesto. I think he will be shining, he will be certainly grinning – remember that big Tony Blair grin – ear to ear? I think he’s got that on.”
Yes, we remember, Peter. But thanks anyway.
Compare and contrast.
But the former prime minister is not quite dead yet, as you well know, Lord Mandelson.
Despite video evidence Ed Balls tried to pretend that the dead or alive business was the cause of his incredulity over Lord Mandelson’s remarks. Notably, as a possibly psychologically significant faux pas (they have had three years of Brown in Number 10 after all) Ed Balls also described Mr Blair as “the Prime Minister” and had to be corrected by Lord Mandelson!
The spirit of Tony Blair does still “haunt” the Labour party as it should. Something similar fell upon the characters in ‘the Scottish Play’.
Continued from C4:
When Gary Gibbon later spoke to the schools secretary Ed Balls, he relayed Mandelson’s remark regarding New Labour, adding “so much of the public sector reforms that he wanted is getting into the manifesto”.
“Labour was a partnership between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown from the beginning”, came the swift and short reply from Balls.
But after the interview, apparently believing he was off camera, Ed Balls inquired about Mandelson’s remark to Gary Gibbon: “He didn’t really say that, did he?”
At the Labour press conference this morning, veteran political commentator Andrew Neil of the BBC’s Daily Politics programme rounded on Balls.
“Why were you so shocked when Mandelson said the manifesto was ‘Blair-plus'”, he asked. “You were off camera so you were honest”, he charged.
Adding the new, ‘Blair-plus’ line into the mix, Balls stammered a reply. He said he was shocked because Gibbon had repeated Mandelson’s quote that Blair was “smiling down from on high” – which implied he was no longer with us. Gibbon however, did not repeat this part of the quote.
“I was pretty sure Tony Blair was still amongst us that was the reason I was shocked.” said Balls.
In a case of mass-misquoting, Mandelson parted the two this morning, “hold on a minute you two”, adding that he had deemed the manifesto ‘Blair-Plus’ as it “goes further than Tony Blair did, on industry, on politics…”
A Guardian letter – ‘Obsession with Blair and Iraq’
So many obsessed, or as some like to suggest – so many possessed.
It must be the ghost.
Or the spirit.