Balls and Osborne go toe to toe in Commons banking debate
Commons turned into a boxing ring as the two political heavyweights slug it out
YESTERDAY'S debate over Labour's motion calling for a judge-led inquiry into the banking industry turned into a slugfest of epic proportions as Chancellor George Osborne and his Labour shadow, two of their respective parties' most accomplished parliamentary performers, engaged in a thrilling clash about accusations made by Osborne against Balls in The Spectator magazine.
"For sheer pugilistic spectacle, for mutual enmity and for knuckle-bruising brutality, it was up there with the Thrilla in Manila. Balls and Osborne, transmogrified into Ali and Frazier at the dispatch box," writes Caroline Davies in The Guardian. Balls repeatedly called for his opposite number to withdraw the accusations, which he showed little inclination to do.
"Swinging between naked belligerence and hurt indignation," Davies said, "Balls was intent on embarrassing the Tories. Despite anger at his integrity being impugned and his calls of 'withdrawal' he was enjoying the bout, even blowing a flirty kiss toward Tory Anna Soubry as he made way for her."
For Dan Hodges in The Telegraph, "this was parliamentary theatre at its finest". He scored the fight marginally in the Labour man's favour: "Balls probably triumphed over the course of the debate. But for the 5-10 minutes during which the two old warriors went head-to-head it was honours even. Balls landed some mighty blows. But Osborne took his punishment, and refused to step back."
To those people who persistently complain about the excessively adversarial nature of politics - including the Telegraph's leader column, which said that "Balls and George Osborne came across more as squabbling schoolchildren than statesmen capable of steering us through the economic storm" - Hodges had a simple request:
put a sock in it.
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail was similarly enthralled by the contest, noting that "Simply as theatre, Mr Balls's performance was hard to top. The man is a horror, yes. God knows what he does for Labour's vote. But with that energy, that nerve, he¹s a piece of work all right."
Despite their roars of approval in the chamber, Tory MPs are privately unnerved that George Osborne's obsession with scoring political points against his shadow is taking his eye of the bigger picture of his job, namely sorting out the economic mess that the British economy is currently mired in, according to Sam Coates and Roland Watson in The Times.
One MP told the paper that: "People want us to sort out the effing banks, not worry about what Ed Balls might have said four years ago", while another asked "When are we going to get a Chancellor who is not part-time? You can't run the sixth largest economy in the world with a mate-ocracy." ·