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Why I Can’t Help Missing Ed Balls

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I know that for a lot of you, the defenestration of Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will have been the highlight of the election, more joyous even than the humiliating nationwide wipeout of the Liberal Democrats.

Our mates over at the Guido Fawkes blog, for instance, demonstrated their quietly jubilant response to the result in a Vine video posted to their blog.

But I’m afraid I can’t go along with this particular outburst of schadenfreude. You see, for some time I have been harbouring a secret: I really admire Ed Balls.

Balls represents nothing so much as a schoolyard bully coming to take your lunch money: glaring, sociopathic, dangerous. But weren’t they they boys we all wanted to be, really? The ones who never seemed to get into trouble despite the most appalling abuses? The ones whose total lack of anything resembling remorse left us all breathless with admiration?

Consider too the effortlessness with which Balls managed to skewer even the finest and sharpest Member of Parliament we have, Michael Gove, over the “dumbing down” of exams. His point was asinine, his stunt cheap, but his delivery ruthless and mocking and blisteringly effective.

Perhaps never before in public life has a man been able so devastatingly to advance arguments he knows to be hogwash.

There is something magical about Balls. Fans of nominative determinism have long observed that even his name recalls the pendulous orbs upon which women and men alike have a lifelong fixation: those quivering globes from which all life springs.

It’s not just me: in February, hot and bothered commenters on Mumsnet voted Balls one of the sexiest MPs in Parliament, one of them going so far as to call him a “sexy beast.”

When LBC’s Iain Dale sent a producer out into the streets of London to ask who thought Balls was a beauty, the public agreed, with many fans, especially men, extolling his virtues. “He could rock my world,” intoned one particularly camp bloke.

When Balls then referred to himself as a “long, slow burn,” you could hear bra straps snapping across the capital.

Men are perhaps more willing to admit their lust for Balls because they haven’t had two decades of being indoctrinated about the virtues of smarmy, over-groomed metrosexuals, as women have.

If you ask me, all those mumsy Labour MPs nudging and winking at the sight of Chuka Umunna were only doing so to be politically correct: it’s Balls they were thinking about when the lights were off and their husbands were down the pub and the only thing they had for company was a brush handle and BBC Parliament.

Balls was an alpha male in a party of betas. When Miliband or Harman refused to apologise for Labour’s overspending, you didn’t know whether it was sincere or just a party line. But when Balls said it, you knew he meant it.

However utterly wrongheaded a person is, there is sexiness in certainty and in refusal to repent.The sun went down on Balls last week and left him glaring, glistening, triumphant and undefeated. His total lack of humility and shame is a hell of a turn-on.

Now the House of Commons is without Balls, I worry not only for the Opposition’s ability to mount robust objections to government policy – essential to any healthy democracy – but also for the Conservatives.

One of the reasons the present administration is likely to disappoint in the coming years is that they didn’t so much win the election as sit back and watch Labour lose it. They never had to raise their game.

And with the Labour front benches robbed of Balls, no longer will the Prime Minister have to contend with that jabbing finger, those raised brows or the deep, shimmering pools of hatred that stood in for eyes in Ball’s elegantly sculpted face.

We’re all infinitely poorer for the lack of Balls, who was perhaps the last Labour politician who could strike fear into the hearts of his opponents with a heady mix of shamelessness, intimidation, mercilessness and a reliably perfect salt’n’pepper side-parting.

He was a freight train, a juggernaut, an unstoppable force. A truly dangerous man in a Parliament of fools. And my hunch is that you, too, dear reader, will come to miss him as I already do.


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