My stammer is not the important issue here, says Ed Balls

Ed Balls responds to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement. Picture: Reuters
Ed Balls responds to the Chancellor's Autumn Statement. Picture: Reuters
Share this article
Have your say

ED BALLS has rounded on critics of his response to George Osborne’s mini-budget, insisting he would not apologise for his stammer.

The shadow chancellor said his condition sometimes “got the better of him” in Parliament, and accused Mr Osborne of missing key figures out of his statement.

The Labour frontbencher seemed thrown on Wednesday when the Chancellor announced that the government’s deficit was forecast to fall this year.

Speaking yesterday morning, Mr Balls said: “What happens in the House of Commons when you are responding to that statement is you have none of the figures, none of the documentation, and you have to listen to the Chancellor.

“The outside forecasters were all expecting a rise in borrowing this year, because it has risen for the first seven months … it was impossible to work out in that first minute or two what was going on.

“The reason is because the Chancellor decided to slip the money for the 4G mobile spectrum into this financial year but he did not even say that in the House of Commons.”

Asked if he had let Mr Osborne off the hook, Mr Balls said: “No. I watched the evening news on television, and I have read the papers today and I know this is actually about what will happen to families and businesses over the coming months.

“This is, in the end, about who has made the right judgments in the last two years and in the future.”

He went on: “Everybody knows with me that I have a stammer. Sometimes that stammer gets the better of me in the first minute or two when I speak, especially when I have got the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and 300 Conservative MPs yelling at me at the top of their voices.

“But frankly that is who I am. What I want to do is win the arguments about what is right for Britain, for jobs, for our economy, for our deficit and for low and middle-income families in our country.

“That is more important than the first two minutes of an exchange with people brewing over the dispatch box.

“I don’t apologise for one second.”

Mr Osborne yesterday said Mr Balls’s history as a close ally of Gordon Brown, rather than his stammer, was behind his treatment by MPs.

“I would say the reason why the Commons doesn’t take Ed Balls very seriously has got nothing to do with the fact that he has got a stammer,” he said. “It is the fact that he was the chief economic adviser when it all went wrong, and he never acknowledges that.”