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Does Ed Balls have problems arguing with women?

January 26th, 2011

Why the strange reticence?

The publication of the economic figures yesterday gave us our first chance to see how the protagonists for the government and opposition would perform – and as I observed in an article yesterday I thought that Osborne was poor.

But what about Ed Balls – Labour’s new economic spokesman of whom great things are expected by the red team. How did he do? Would his sharp brain and normal combative approach see him through? The answer was both yes or no depending on whether he was discussing the issues with a man or a woman.

For when it was with someone of his own gender the Balls we know of old was still there – yet when a woman was putting the questions or was the coalition representative he was strangely reticent and nothing like as effective.

I was struck by the heavy weather he made of his World at One interview with Martha Kearney. And just look at the above appearance on the Daily Politics and contrast his very different approach when discussing directly with Treasury Minister Justine Greening and answering questions from Andrew Neil, the programme’s presenter.

He found it difficult to interject when the former was putting the government case yet allowed himself to be interrupted when he himself was talking. The sharp response by Greening to Balls’s “digging a hole” point was a good example.

I wonder whether all this is down to his upbringing. Whatever I can see the broadcasters and the government making sure that he faces a lot more women.

Mike Smithson