Ed Balls has finally fallen back to earth after his final Strictly waltz, and was in Notting Hill for his first post-Edxit interview at a 5×15 event at The Tabernacle.
Balls has been bringing some of his new-found dance knowledge to the question of politics. Speaking about Chancellor Philip Hammond’s task during Brexit as an “unenviable challenge”, he said Theresa May was not supporting Hammond enough. “As a Prime Minister you have to decide: do you back your Chancellor or do you let them swing? I think Theresa May has let Philip Hammond swing a bit too much.”
It is hardly surprising that he hasn’t let go of the dancing metaphors. “Today is the first day for about three months that I’ve not spent in a dance studio,” he said.
“I’m aching but I sort of miss it a little bit.”
Balls added that losing the vote on Strictly was different to missing out in politics. “If you fight in an election you’re definitely intending to win but I think with Strictly there’s an element of taking part that is as important as the winning or the losing.”
But now that he’s proved he can win the popular vote, does that mean he might sashay back into the fray? “I’m not going to make the mistake of thinking that a Saturday night bit of entertainment … is the same as being a political leader,” he said.
“When it’s politics and government, it’s not reality TV it’s the real world. I know that — I’m not sure that Donald Trump does, though.”
Literati take Americans to task
MUCH chit-chat among the literati last night, as the Sunday Times books department hosted a Christmas bash at Stationers’ Hall in St Paul’s.
Top of the conversation tree was Julian Barnes’s comments this week that the Man Booker Prize should never have been opened to Americans, with Californian Paul Beatty taking the 2016 award. “Certainly not,” said guest Howard Jacobson, a winner before the prize was opened to the Americans in 2014. “Mind you, I’m not sure why Barnes is talking about this now. A bit late. Still, I’m opposed to their entry as much because they have so many prizes of their own, and they don’t let us Brits compete in any of them.” Jacobson had widespread support last night, including from top agent David Godwin, whose author Arundhati Roy won the Booker in 1997. “Americans should never have been allowed in,” said Godwin.
Also at the party was Daisy Goodwin, author and screenwriter of the ITV hit Victoria. “I’m writing the second series now. We hope it will be on air next autumn,” she said. Might handsome yet elderly Lord Melbourne, played by Rufus Sewell, be back in the next series even though he retired as Prime Minister? “I can write what I want,” responded Goodwin.
Where to find a fantastic beast …
Fashion designer Emilia Wickstead drew a thespy crowd last night to a Christmas cocktail party at her Sloane Street store. Guests included film director Tom Hooper, and Hannah Bagshawe and her actor husband Eddie Redmayne. Hooper and Redmayne have worked together on Les Misérables and The Danish Girl but Redmayne is committed to four more instalments of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s not his first attempt to break into the Rowling franchise: he auditioned for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “It was with the apprentice of the apprentice of the apprentice of the casting director,” he tells Esquire. “I didn’t get beyond that first audition.” If at first you don’t succeed…
Having your cake and scoffing it
Boris Johnson once declared: “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it” — an aspiration smacked down by European Council President Donald Tusk, who advised “the proponents of the cake philosophy” to “buy a cake, eat it, and see if it is still there on the plate”.
The phrase resurfaced yesterday in a notebook being walked down Downing Street yesterday under the arm of MP Mark Field’s aide, Julia Dockerill: “The model? Have cake & eat it”.
The question of what to do with cake is now becoming central to European history. The English phrase first arose in 1538 when the Duke of Norfolk — Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard’s uncle — wrote to Thomas Cromwell that “a man cannot have his cake and eat his cake”.
However, when the prospect of cake is raised with the French, the boulangerie is a different political battleground. In the 1760s, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote of a “great princess” whose answer to poverty was “Qu’ils mangent le brioche” — “let them eat cake”, long since misattributed to Queen Marie Antoinette, only nine at the time.
Those with long memories may recall the rebuff West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl delivered to Mrs Thatcher in 1984. Fed up with being handbagged by her in a meeting for an hour near Salzburg, he excused himself, saying he had an important appointment to attend. Thatcher, left with nothing to do, went shopping only to spot Kohl in a café flicking through a newspaper and scoffing a “mammoth cream pastry”, according to academic historians. If all else fails, there’s Remainiac Eddie Izzard’s age-old question: “Cake or death?”
Did Princess Beatrice accidentally cut Ed Sheeran’s face while conducting a mock knighthood because she had the wrong sword? Downton Abbey adviser Alastair Bruce tells us: “The Queen almost always uses her father’s Scots Guards sword, for no other reason than she likes the balance and weight. The sword travels almost wherever The Queen goes.”
A delicious evening at British Curry awards at Battersea Evolution last night, with guests including Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. The Londoner asked Heston Blumenthal if he served curry at his Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck. Of course, came the reply: “it’s like saying ‘Are you serving breakfast?’” he said. Blumenthal later jumped up on stage with the Duchess, and then took his time handing out an award. “You don’t get this from Harry Hill” joked host Alistair McGowan, thinking of Heston’s lookalike. But Hill can’t cook so well. Burp.
Chocs away with words
There’s no better time than Christmas to hear from an elegant chocolatier, so the Prestat advent calendar was a welcome arrival this week. The offering from the Queen’s chocolate maker has a tale behind the panels. “It is written by a dead aspiring novelist who uses the nom de plume WB Keeling Esq. which confusingly is my name,” says Prestat’s co-owner Bill Keeling. “It tells of Sir Anthony of Tewkesbury, who waits for his wartime Christmas presents while his spoilt grandchildren get cashmere onesies.”
Keeling follows a literary tradition. “Roald Dahl wrote a rather salacious book, My Uncle Oswald, which centred around Prestat chocolates. Our former owner, Neville Croft, wrote plays.” The play’s the thing — the chocolates a great extra.
Hang-up of the day: Boris Johnson was at CCHQ last night to take part in a phone-drive. Not one person answered. “I got a very positive feel from those answer machines,” he shrugged.