Former Labour MP Ed Balls has derided Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party, describing his attempt to create a “leftist utopia fantasy… devoid of connection to the reality of people’s lives, or Tony and Gordon” as the ex-shadow chancellor prepares to humiliate himself on national TV.
Balls, who in last year’s general election lost the safe seat of Morley and Outwood, believes that Corbyn “lacks the credibility” to bring the party forward and that his “efforts to create some kind of left wing utopia” do not reflect the philosophy of the party created by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
The one time cabinet minister, whose comments are made in his new autobiography Talking Balls, also made criticisms of former leader Ed Miliband and accused Corbyn of “refusing to listen to the electorate” and instead basing his policies on his own political principles and the wishes of Labour Party supporters, an approach he claims “Tony never would have taken. Nor Gordon”.
His autobiography is being serialised in The Times, the centre-right News Corp-owned broadsheet, and maps his political career from humorously named backbencher to cabinet minister befriended to Tony and Gordon, to man in charge of hypothetical money and then to humiliating electoral defeat, and is widely expected to find great value as a spider smasher for literature critics.
And despite only losing his parliamentary seat last year, Balls has not held back in his assessment of his former peers, as he said that Miliband “kept him at a distance” in the build up to the election, “only spoke” to him twice during the campaign and “always turned around and walked away when he saw me approaching, or sometimes pretended to get a phone call, probably from Tony. Or Gordon”.
He adds: “That was astonishingly dysfunctional when I compare it to how Tony and Gordon worked. They would seek me out, and even go out for a pint with me and play some pool, even when there was no pressing issue on the money being gone or the schools being rubbish. It’s not hard to see why Milly didn’t so well compared to them.”
But the most searing remarks are left for Corbyn, of whom Balls comments: “Refusing to listen to the electorate has never been a winning formula, any more than Jeremy Corbyn thinking the volume of cheering from your core supporters is a reliable guide to wider public opinion. The Corbynator should have listened to great Labour leaders of our times. Like Tony, or Gordon.
“His method is backwards. It’s not about establishing what you stand for and what you intend to do and then selling that message to the public. It’s about finding out what everyone wants and basing your strategies around that. It’s not like we’re called Labour because we’re a bunch of smelly workers, as Tony used to say. And Gordon.”
He also says that Corbyn, who is in competition with Owen Smith as he tries to retain leadership of the party, will not win the day as long as he “indulges in delusions” and smells like paprika and hummus, while adding: “Men who use little beards to hide their chins are cowards. I never did that, and neither did Tony. Or Gordon.”
The new season of Strictly Come Dancing, in which once-known but ultimately perennially irrelevant individuals prance about a sound stage for the entertainment of the powerless, begins on Saturday, when Balls is widely expected to sweat through his garb and flare his nostrils indignantly, while hoping desperately and tragically that Tony is watching. Or Gordon. They won’t be.