About a week ago I stumbled on an episode of ”Travels in Trumpland’ the documentary series by Ed Balls.
I should confess at this point that the career of Ed Balls had more or less passed me by. I was vaguely aware that he was a Labour politician and at a push might have guessed he was on the Brown side of the Brown / Blair divide.
The episode I was watching saw him spending time with various groups of Trump supporters including Veterans of the US military.
It was clear from the line of questioning that Mr Balls will never be confused with a Trump supporter but what surprised me was that he was prepared to listen to what the people were saying and turn over their arguments in his mind. It was clear that he was there to understand their point of view not to demonise them. I was very impressed with his efforts.
At the end before flicking the TV on to something else, I remember thinking it’s a pity more of the media don’t take the same time and attention as Ed Balls.
Fast forward a week and I’m in Teneriefe after a tough day at the beach soaking up the sun. As I’m walking through the common room of the hotel I spy a small library area. Afer luxuriating all day in the surf, I surely deserve an evening read, so I wander over. The first book I lay my hand on?
‘ Speaking Out’
By Ed Balls
I am not going to give you a book review here other than to say Ed Balls seems like he was a capable policy maker and and then a capable politician. Probably slightly better equipped at the former than the latter. So far so ordinary you might say.
However the reason I’m writing this piece, is because of a line or two that comes at the end of his Autobiography. It crystallized a slight and nagging annoyance I had with the episode I saw of his documentary series.
It comes in the last chapter entitled
‘ The Future’
One should remember that at the time of writing it is set against a disastrous 2015 election for Labour and himself personally, the calamitous Brexit referendum and the rising tide of Donald Trump. At that point Trump had not yet been elected, yet it is clear to me, Ed Balls, having seen first hand the inexplicable ascension of Jeremy Corbyn, wasn’t ruling it out. Unlike many media and political figures.
I will quote directly the exerpt I am talking about.
‘ So how has it come to this?, who is to blame, and what can mainstream politics do to turn this around and rebuild trust?’
When I read this it hit me. He doesn’t get it. Mainstream politics and for that matter mainstream media don’t fully get what is going on.
People don’t want to turn the ship around. They want a new ship. Shit they may not even want a ship.
In western civilistaion the last 50 years of stagnation and decay have brought us to this point. Like a rubber band that you pull too far there is no going back.
There is phrase in Balls book that he goes back to a few times throughout. To paraphrase it says if you get the economics right you will get the politics right most of the time.
For me, Donald Trump is a full paid up member of this line of thinking. His economic message is spot on. The problem for the rest of us is this: it’s spot on for American Interests. The problem with the caricature of him being a celebrity president is that he is also and more importantly a successful business man. He is applying business logic to the American economy and both the economy and his supporter base are responding to it.
The mainstream media despite their shock and awe tactics for the past two years don’t understand how they have not been able to topple him. Well for me they made a massive and continuing mistake in the immediate aftermath of the election. I’ll sum it up in two words:
I have not spoke to anyone in the last 18 months that believes Trump colluded with the Russians to win the US Presidential election. In fact, the predominant reaction to that suggestion is one of laughter. Can you imagine trying to control Donald Trump? Can you imagine him being able to keep his mouth shut if he had been?
Yet the US media is still hitching their wagon to this myth and eroding confidence in their objectivity every day they continue to do so.
You see the problem for Ed Balls, politicians and the mainstream media is this:
Larger and larger tracts of ordinary citizens believe them to be PART of the elites they are supposed to be protecting us from and informing us about. There is no going back.
To answer Ed Balls question to himself. You can’t rebuild Trust until you rebuild politics. How this is done, I have no idea but in the interim we’ll have people like Donald Trunp and Jeremy Corbyn in positions of greater power in the world.
In our part of the world we have the immediate problem of Brexit on our horizon and mainstream politics is again failing us. For my money the European Union are using Ireland and the border in Northern Ireland as their battlefront. For this reason they are happy to have Ireland front and centre of the negotiations.
Politicians on both sides of the Irish Sea should not fall into the trap of demonising each other. It starting to happen. We are trading partners, neighbours and friends. We speak the same language and laugh at the same jokes, support the same teams. We fought long and hard enough with each other to get to this place. No outside entity should be allowed fuck with it.
Ed Balls started his career as a journalist for the Financial Times and as the rhetoric rises in the Brexit countdown, I kinda wish he was moderating the ongoing discussion. Some balance and openmindness is sorely lacking.
Many people say we are in the age of information. What we need from our Politicians and media is all of the information laid out before us. We’ll work out the truth for ourselves thank you very much. Much like my reading of Ed Balls book, I don’t agree with a lot of his policies but at least now I understand him and trust his ideas come from a place of decency.