tv Political Thinking with Nick... BBC News December 29, 2021 1:30pm-2:01pm GMT
'in northern ' in northern scotland. 'in northern scotland. moving milder in northern scotland. moving into friday, new year's eve, we could have some rain in the morning. it could linger a bit across north—eastern parts of england into the afternoon. it does tend to dry up. the winds will ease down. not quite as mild in scotland on friday. 16, possibly even 17 in east anglia. why is it so mild? well, because the winds are coming from the south, bringing warm, quite cloudy air, all the way from the tropics. those southerly winds ahead of these weather fronts around an area of low pressure which is focusing the rain more towards the north—west of the uk as we head towards midnight and into the new year. many of us will be dry and it will be exceptionally mild overnight into new year's day. still some rain around new year's day. mainly for the northern half of the uk. a full suite north—east and out of the way, followed by sunshine, showers in the west. a
stronger wind on saturday. that winter is coming in from the south, hence those temperatures, saturday, new year's day, 20, 22. thank you. that's it. goodbye from me. wejoin the thank you. that's it. goodbye from me. we join the local news teams where you are. "oh, my god, how do you know ed balls?" someone said to me the other day, assuming the only reason you might know my guest on political thinking for this christmas special is because of his dancing on strictly come dancing, winning the celebrity best home chef, or making all those documentaries on bbc two. i gently pointed out to someone who was about my children's age that before all of that
stuff he actually was stuff he actually was quite a serious politician, being when i first met him the adviser to the shadow chancellor gordon brown and then to the chancellor himself, before becoming education secretary, shadow chancellor and a candidate for the labour leader. all that feels, though, like a very long time ago. welcome to political thinking. a long time ago, goodness me. it's christmas after all and while we're recording this before christmas, it's being broadcast afterwards. given you just produced a cookery book, or at least a book about christmas cooking, reflections, tips, people are sitting there wondering what they should do with the christmas leftovers. what is the ed balls recommendation? the most important thing for post—christmas leftovers is chips — homemade chips. my mother—in—law is brilliant at making homemade chips, cut some potatoes, double cooked
in a pan, and you can get quite ——through quite a lot of cold turkey or cold goose if the chips are good and crisp and nice and salty. the other thing i learned over the years, in our family nobody wants leftovers so therefore you have to cook thinking, "let's not have too much to hang around in the days afterwards." i assumed you were going to come up with a recipe for turkey lasagne, or the man who used to be my book agent used to recommend a turkey hash you could have after christmas. doesn't it make you feel a bit gloomy? turkey lasagne. .. oh, god, let'sjust move on from the turkey. that's my view. there are lots of people thinking, "thank god the christmas cooking is over." i get a sense it's a highlight for you. the idea of cooking for christmas for the family is a pleasure for you. i love christmas cooking and i love new year cooking as well. right now i'm looking forward to three days through new year's day.
every year for the last 20 years we have the same 18—20 people, and when they first arrived our children were tiny, their kids were tiny. these days, they're 20—somethings, beyond teenagers, they come back because they know it will be fun, with everybody together, fourfamilies, and the food will be good. we have in front of us the house of commons... gosh. ..mince pie. this is christmas. the house of commons _ this is christmas. the house of commons mince _ this is christmas. the house of commons mince pie. _ eating on camera is not a good idea, is it? it's a terrible idea but it also depends on what you eat. and you learn this over the years. spaghetti bolognese — disaster. yeah, no, no. pizza — disaster. bacon and eggs with a knife and fork, cut discreetly — good idea. bacon sandwich? if only he'd asked me! it's a terrible idea because the trouble is the bacon is chewy and the bread is chewy
and it's never quite clear what is eating what — is the bacon sandwich consuming you or are you eating the bacon sandwich? i think a mince pie, you can pull it off but what i would do is i would not go... i would break and then take a morsel. the trick is asking a question while you have a mouthful. you only have a small mouthful. you know the story about ed miliband eating that bacon sandwich which caused him so much hell is, i know for a fact cos my cameraman was filming at the time, that ed miliband was told seconds before, "don't eat on camera," by his senior press aide at the time and he decided to ignore it. he was just probably hungry. the problem was it was not that it was just on television, there were cameras there. i played football for the house of commons against the press every year for 15 years and all these press photographers are behind the goal every time the top premier league football players play, but of the thousand pictures
they take they pluck out the best one which would show wayne rooney in his pomp as he heads the goal, but if you're a politician, of the thousand pictures, they pick out the one which will make you look worst, that's just the nature of the game. you were bloodied when you played football. sorry, ed miliband looked like that... they were able to pluck out the one picture which made him look completely... it was unfair because i'm sure it was a nice discreet bite but if you have got still photographers, it is never going to look good. don't do it. i remember you playing football and there would be photographs of you appearing to be bloodied as if you were some lunatic version of roy keane, or occasionally you will go for a header and there would be a bit of gut coming out. as yvette said to me at the time, the gut pictures struck a chord with middle—aged men and their wives across the country. so that's connection and authenticity. those people i mentioned
in the introduction who think you are lovely and cuddly ed. you are of course a dancer. that was not quite the reputation in politics. politics is a very physical cartoon thing and there's always caricature and if i had been lighter or smaller, it would never have been the same caricature, the cartoonists in the newspapers find something and make it bigger, but the truth was also if you're going to do government well, it's partly about having the argument. and i have been teaching for the last few years at king's in london and we would look at different prime minister—chancellor relationships and how they work and if they had good or bad outcomes. part of good government is challenge and there was a constitutional role for the chancellor, especially with a large majority, to challenge and argue and vice versa, but when people did not like that, it feeds a caricature.
what is fascinating is many of us have watched back now, this brown—blair documentary, and i originally resisted doing it on the grounds it was too much like a busman�*s holiday, and there was bits of me in it because i was a reporter at the time. looking now, i'd say, exactly the same. of course, as young as ever! but what struck me as i was watching it, and thatjust reflects on the fact we have grown up in the same generation together, it's just how young you were. my goodness, you are plotting the independence of the bank of england, one of the most important economic decisions taken since the war, and you are my children's age. when i wrote the paper and presented it to tony blair and gordon brown in 1995, i was 28. but the thing is we worked intensively for years and i think i essentially spent seven,
eight years of my life thinking about that moment by the time we arrived in 1997. the moment you actually said, and it's shown in the documentary, you say to the permanent secretary of the treasury, the bank of england, which had not been independent had always been under the government, the chancellor of the day, with the prime minister's involvement had set interest rates, and you said that era is over. you planned all that time for that? for years and years. i had a job at the treasury to go to in 1988 and deferred it because i went to harvard for two years and i worked there for the summer in �*89 with nigel lawson as chancellor and i was studying in harvard, we were studying central—bank independence and the case for it and how you could do it differently. i spent four years at the financial times writing about it, a pamphlet in 1992
about how you could do it in a labour way, talked to gordon brown five years before we did it, so the intensity of the preparation was quite something. was it ever as good again? i look back sometimes at myjournalistic career and the first big story i covered was the fall of margaret thatcher. i was not on screen or behind the microphone, i was a producer, but there are moments i think there will never be a story as exciting, as important as the felling of margaret thatcher when i was ridiculously young and very inexperienced. do you ever look back at that period and think it never got as good as that again? that was it? i think that in a positive way. but i do think that. different generations have different experiences. some generations can spend years and years in politics and never get into government. we were there for 13 years and it just happened that it started when i was just 30, for tony blair and gordon brown in their early 40s.
we had a large majority, the country was looking for change and it was an era when things were opening up and it was an opportunity to do new and different things, and those, for me, eight years in the treasury, they were undoubtedly the period of my life where i had the most influence and the most clout. we did budget after budget and spending review after spending review. the hardest thing i did politically was being a cabinet minister. the most satisfying was that, but also the treasury years. but you have to think celebratory about that. i think to myself what an honour to have had the opportunity. we referred to it earlier that you were seen as a bruiser, often the word "bullying" was used, and you were seen as very aggressive for gordon brown against tony blair, is this a kind of process? you talked about how when labour left government in 2010 you talked
about how you almost had to consciously think, "i might have a midlife crisis, i have been going at 150 mph and my life is changing, even though i'm still important in politics, shadow chancellor, wanting to be chancellor," you had to make a conscious decision, is that how it worked? yes, because we had been in government for 13 years and then we lost. and we were all exhausted and you were then plunged into this long labour leadership election and then that autumn, i think by that point we were absolutely shattered. and going into opposition when you have been in government for a long time is really difficult because you know what you are missing and you feel those frustrations. but i think when i was shadow chancellor, it was a time to reassess and think about the past but also what was important in my life, the things i was doing and so although there were things i have done since 2015
which have carried that on, i think i actually started before. but in a conscious way. i know you took up the piano, for example. the other day, people who follow you will know you did a piano concert with other people. so scary. but do you really think, "ok, i'm out of government now, i need to give time to other things in my life to have some ballst," and to have what dennis healey famously called a hinterland? i think, genuinely, i thought i'm in danger of having a midlife crisis, so therefore i should plan it. i have always been somebody who likes to think about having a view, a plan, sort things out and i thought this is a time to start thinking about things which are important and devote more time to them. is there a bit of you that thinks you'd be a better politician now because you have had that broader life? 0ddly, i'm not asking
if you want to go back, i'm saying if magically they put you back that you'd be better at it, you've got a broader perspective? of course that is the case. because you continually are learning and getting perspectives and having time to reflect and when you're away from the intensity, you have more time for that. i slightly blanche at that because i get a lot of, "we always knew that you were a politician and it's great to see you now become a human being," and i don't like that because politicians are human beings and i think i was one even when i was in the cabinet. it's hard for me to disconnect how i have changed my perception with the way in which politics has changed over the same period because i look at the nature of political discourse now and it's so much more confrontational and so much more entrenched, and you have to... each side, often to spur your group
on, you have to hate the other side and think they are not just wrong but evil, and i don't feel that way about politics. was that always true? because people who know you on television have seen that you are interested in people who have different views from yourself. you go and meet trump voters, which many of the people you were in politics with would never want to meet any of them and would never want to hear any of them and would want to actually shout at them about what they are doing. but what i found fascinating about your television work is you want to hear them. but that is absolutely not a post—politics learning. i think i learned that... a big change happened for me in 2005. i'm elected for a safe labour seat, the boundaries change and suddenly within a year i'm going to be fighting a very marginal constituency, so marginal i end up losing it in 2015.
it was a seat which had the largest british national party membership in the country, elected a bnp councillor in the run—up to 2010. it was a seat which ended up voting clearly for leave in 2016. and if you are a marginal seat mp and you're going to do it well, or if you are a marginal seat candidate, and this is important for current politics as well, if you write off people because it looks like they have a view that people like you disagree with, then you never understand and you can't persuade, but you don't persuade because they don't hear anything you say. the word you keep using, which i think is very strong, is persuasion. it's not berating. it's not lecturing. it's not even orating, in the way of a jeremy corbyn.
it's persuasion. "you think this — we think you should think that." i think you have to start a step before that, which is to talk about what you think and what you feel and what you value. that's what we were doing in the trump land programmes and to understand that, and say there's choices we face and to get what you want... the thing is i would find 5%, 5 in 100 people in a public meeting on immigration who wanted to close the borders, and it would be even less who thought free movement was a good idea. "free movement? a free—for—all." most people wanted it things to be managed and controlled, they thought migration was important and british was important and british people going to work in germany or spain was important, but they wanted it to be controlled,
and if you listen and you hear then you can start a conversation when you say we agree, but sometimes it means we have to change what we say and sometimes you have to expose that the other side's not got an answer but if you don't listen first... and then it's ok to agree and it's ok, there are things which the government does which are good and things they do which are bad, and in politics the only things which last are the ones which become consensual. the things which george osborne and i agreed on are things that last like the minimum wage. let's reflect on a few... before we come back to some recipes. this has all got quite political. i am not used to this! we'll do some reflections on your relatively new documentary. let's turn to the documentary you made, inside the care crisis. this is a personaljourney for you because your mother has dementia and is in a care home. was it also a journey looking at yourself thinking, why didn't, not necessarily i,
but why didn't the system do more to deal with this crisis? what is it about british politics which means a knowable problem, a crisis that people on your side of politics or on the other side of politics have privately talked to me about for a quarter of a century but have not managed to solve. i very consciously went into it wanting to ask the question why has it taken politics so long to sort out social care? and in the very first conversation i had with the bbc, with expectation, months before we started filming, i said i feel guilty we did not do more, and that became a starting point for the film. i absolutely did not intend to go in talking how i did about my mum. clearly that was a motivation for me doing it but i never wanted to do "ed balls — my care story". but there was a learning i had in those first couple of weeks
about the nature of care and its skill and complexity which suddenly made me realise, and the same thing was true for my brother and sister, that we did not understand how hard it was, the job that was being done to look after my mum. i think what it does is the viewer comes in with me and they see what i see and i think lots of people who don't work in care or have not seen it... i've got a mum in care and i did not know. and you think, goodness, that's what it is and why aren't we valuing this? what are we doing? it's interesting hearing you talk about it, you're still trying to persuade. not as a criticism. i think it's an interesting observation. you are not saying, i've done politics and all that and now i'm a tv star. you are still using television to say to people, understand, see what i can see and come with me on a journey and you'll think of things how i think of things.
i've done some tv that was just really fun. strictly, best home cook, experiences you'd never expect to have in your life. and if you simply make people smile, that is really good. but the parts of television i've really enjoyed and found fulfilling are when people say that they saw things they had not seen before. and i think if i had gone in making a current affairs documentary about social care and i'd said, "i've come to tell you what the problem is and what the answer is," there would be some people who would say brilliant and some people would say, "i hate him and i will not listen to what he says," and we would not have advanced. whereas if you actually go in and say, come with me and let's go and see, you go and listen in the way in politics you should listen to what the voters say first then you see things and you learn things but also it changes your view. it's christmas. we will have a christmas quiz. oh, my goodness.
strictly — favourite dance? well, how could you not say gangnam style? because even now i get e—mails every week from people saying, "i was feeling down and i watched gangnam style and it cheered me up." isn't that a lovely thing? and particularly teaching michael gove gangnam style. every time my mum watches it, she sees it for the first time and she rolls her eyes and inside she is thinking, "what's he doing ? " but katya would say our cha—cha—cha, the mad scientist to love potion number nine. that was a great dance and i think we did a laurel and hardy sketch to a quickstep to help by the beatles and that was the one time where craig said, "you're actually it's "you're
actually improving, darling ! " " and i thought, "yes!" and there is a part of me which is like always, it's nice making people smile but i wanted to get better. favourite music? billy bragg, isn't it? i do like to sing saturday boy. go on. i remember the first time i met her, that september evening was clear and fresh, the way she walked and laughed at myjokes and the way she rubbed herself up against the edge of my desk. # she became a magic mystery to me and we'd # sit together in double history twice a week...# and i can't remember what happens after that. i really enjoyed playing bach on the piano and i love handel opera and joshua redman, the jazz saxophonist, absolutely brilliant. i could keep going — nina simone, nina simone! i'll end with my favourite ed balls anecdote which for me, and i will prompt you to tell it, cos it's because it's and i will prompt you to tell it, because it's very christmas. gordon brown and the beef. my mum and dad were living out
in italy and we were going out, yvette and i, for christmas, flying out, and my mum said the beef in italy is not as good as you can get in an english butcher, can you bring out a sirloinjoint? so i buy one and we are staying with yvette's mum and dad, drove up from hampshire to heathrow and as we are driving into heathrow, yvette's dad driving, me and yvette with the beef, my phone rings and it's gordon brown on his mobile phone and he said, "ed," he said, "peter mandelson has resigned," and this was when peter mandelson was just exposed for the geoffrey robinson loan, and after a couple of days in 1998, this would be... so for people of a certain age, gordon brown is the new chancellor. and peter mandelson is very close to gordon brown and tony blair at the time, in theory at least. and a cabinet minister, dti secretary. but he had taken a loan that he had not declared, from geoffrey robinson, and after 48 hours... back in those days, people resigned
and he resigned quickly. so he rings me and as he rings me on my mobile to say peter mandelson has resigned, i realised we have left the beef in yvette's parents' fridge at home and i turn to yvette and say, "where's the beef?" and gordon said, "i don't think you heard me — peter mandelson has resigned." and i said to yvette, "is it too late?" and gordon said, "what do you mean is it too late? he's already resigned." and i said to yvette, "can we turn back?" "there's no turning back now," echoed down the phone. but i got off the phone with gordon, having lamented the resignation, and rang yvette's mother and she drove in from hampshire and we got fully checked in and the sirloin was handed over, through security and the beef made it to italy.
the moral of the story, ladies and gentlemen, is even when you are the advisor to the chancellor of the exchequer, it's your mum's roast sirloin that matters most. they would've been so upset. thank you forjoining me it's been a pleasure. thank you. i was sat next to david dimbleby on the bbc election night set when i heard the news that ed balls had lost his parliamentary seat. the truth is i was still rather emotional, i had lost my voice and i'd had cancer and come back and was struggling to broadcast and ifound myself saying on air exactly what i thought, which i don't always do. i said many people regarded balls as a bully or a tough guy, as someone who is obsessed with politics, but i knew a person who loved football, piano, karaoke and loved to cook, and i predicted people would see him in a few years' time very differently from how they did at that time. most of my predictions
were rubbish — that one turned out to be pretty good. thanks for watching political thinking and have a great new year. hello there, the rest of this year is going to be exceptionally mild. the mild air is coming in behind a band of rain that's moving its way north—eastwards, so into the early part of this evening, it's still 15 degrees in london, around eight or so in the north—east of scotland where that rain has certainly been heavier. it's moving up to the northern isles, so we'll get a bit of a breather, a few breaks in the cloud for a while before the cloud thickens as we head further into the night. and we've got more rain coming in, mainly for the western side of the uk. the winds are coming in from the south or south—west,
which is why it's so mild, particularly across england and wales, but much milder than last night across the north—east of scotland. we start tomorrow with a lot of cloud, some rain around too, it'll push eastwards. not much rain for the eastern side of the uk, and then we see the cloud thickening in parts of wales, the west midlands, eventually the north—west of england with some rain returning here. some sunshine, though, for eastern scotland and the north—east of england. for all of us, it's going to be mild, could make 17 in the south—east. and again, much milder than today in northern scotland.
this is bbc news. the headlines: borisjohnson defends the government's decision not to impose further covid restrictions in england before the new year and says as many as 90% of those seriously ill haven't had a third vaccine dose. the overwhelming majority of people who are currently ending up in intensive care in our hospitals are people who are not boosted. but the scottish parliament is being recalled to address the record numbers of covid infections in the country. nicola sturgeon is due to speak shortly. we'll bring that to you live. high demand for covid pcr tests leaves people waiting for days and pharmacists warn of patchy supplies of rapid testing kits following changes to self—isolation rules.