Ed Balls has just called me up about my post from this morning , hopping mad. He instructed me to "take that post down now". I thought he was joking: has there been some change to the constitution where ministers now have power over the media? But he was deadly serious. "You should not call me a liar," said Balls. I told him that if he doesn't want to be called a liar, “he shouldn't tell lies”.Extraordinary. Nelson continues:
Balls told me if I keep the post up, it will "expose" the sort of publication that we are - and our "political" bias. A curious point. McBride used to make pathetic little "threats" like this - now he's gone, Balls has to do the dirty work himself. You'd think Balls has perhaps by now worked out that The Spectator is rather pleased to consider itself a thorn in the side of this tawdry, mendacious government. "So you will take the post down?" Balls said. I just laughed. He hung up. Matt d'Ancona was later surprised to find out that he had four missed calls from Balls on his mobile.The rest of article concerns the substance of Balls' economic lies (or 'false proxies' as Nelson reveals they are known in political circles) and it is most certainly worth reading. But I wanted to focus on the threats from a minister of the Crown made directly to a professional journalist. Channels, anyone?
It's just not acceptable behaviour - it's undignified, bullying and brings an office of state into disrepute. Nelson appears to be pretty good-humoured about these threats, but then he's that sort of a chap. We should not be so forgiving. This kind of outburst from a government minister is intolerable, not least because it appears to be an attempt to muzzle the press.
It's simple. Balls is unfit for office and should be fired for this outburst, though precisely which department he would be vacating remains unclear.
Hattip to Plato.
PS: Nelson's parting shot is certainly worth repeating:
If you're reading this, Ed (and I suspect you will be) then we have a serious point to make. Five years ago, you could lie like this on the radio and get away with it. Space is tight in newspapers, no one would devote hundreds of words and graphs - as we did - to expose a lie for what is. But the world has changed now. Blogging has brought new, hyper scrutiny. Blogs have infinite space, and people with endless energy, to expose political lying - no matter how small. Your claims can be instantly counter-checked, by anyone. If you stretch the truth, you can be exposed - by anyone. And if you plan to base a whole election campaign on a lie, as you apparently intend to do, then you're in for a rude awakening.Now there's a rallying cry if ever I heard one. Get on with it, then ;)