REPORTER: I’m delighted to say we’ve got the Shadow Chancellor in the studio. Mr Balls, good morning and thanks for joining us.
ED BALLS: Pleasure to be here, Mr….Journalist.
R: It’s David actually, that’s just my pass.
EB: No it’s not. Mr Journalist. Change it. Mr Journalist. Jonathan Oliver…Urnalist.
R: Err, yes. You’ll have caught George Osborne’s performance on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday–
EB: Caught it? Yes, I expect the whole nation will have ‘caught it’ like a rampantly infectious vomiting bug. 18 times the Chancellor was asked how he’d fund his party’s £8bn NHS proposals and 18 times the British public saw him flail and flounder in a morass of his own putrefying promises.
R: I’m sorry?
EB: He didn’t answer the question.
R: Uh huh. So what’s your proposal?
EB: To save the NHS. Simple.
R: Would you care to expand on that at all?
EB: Well I’m not about to mimic the truffle-fed arrogance and towering irresponsibility of George Osborne by sitting here and making unfunded promises. Let’s just say I’m going to save the NHS and then say it a few more times and leave it there, right?
R: Well…I mean, if you don’t mind, let’s see if we can’t just unpack that a tiny bit. The um…the funding, for instance: where’s that coming from?
EB: Oh nonononononono, your clever questions aren’t going to work on me, Journalist. You know, I know and the honest, simple, honest, hardworking and honest viewers of this programme know that I have absolutely no idea where the £5bn shortfall in our NHS investment is going to come from. So for me to sit here and pretend otherwise by attempting to answer your question would be a monumental dereliction of my duty as a public servant. Look. Look. Look. Ok? Look. I’m going to save the NHS. That’s just a fact. I’ll do what it takes. But surely you see how recklessly irresponsible it would be for me to outline how I’m going to do that when I haven’t given it even the most fleeting moment’s cursory thought? Frankly I find the very question offensive.
R: I see. So when Ed Miliband said he wanted to be the first Prime Minister to underpromise and overdeliver, he actually meant…
EB: Precisely. You know what a deep thinker Ed is. Well about a month ago, after a solid week of particularly thoughtful thinking, he unveiled what we all quickly realised would become our most significant policy breakthrough since Gordon Brown announced an end to boom and bust. Basically, Ed’s come up with a way to abolish broken promises. How? Simple. Stop promising things. If hopes don’t rise, they can’t fall – no expectation, no deflation. In fact, I lobbied for that to be our campaign slogan but Harman wouldn’t have it on the side of her frigging bus. Anyway, Ed has taken a body politic which for years has been haemorrhaging goodwill and he’s performed what Axelrod’s calling a ‘trustfusion’ on it. This is the dawning of a new age, Journalist. An age of clean consciences, blank manifesto pages and vacant expressions.
R: I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. So, turning to immigration then, and your targetless pledge to bring the number of migrants under control – same deal there?
EB: There you go again, you see, peddling tired, outmoded notions like ‘pledge,’ ‘target,’ ‘accountability’ and so on. The Tories set themselves a net migration target and missed it so spectacularly I was able to gloat about it for a full week before anyone even bothered asking me what I’d have done differently. We prefer not to insult people’s intelligence by confusing them with statistics and policies. Instead, we’ve got a bold and refreshing offer for Britain – to simply do as well as we can as quickly as we can under the circumstances prevailing at the time. And who could say fairer than that? I mean anyone can just set a target can’t they? I could set myself a target right now not to elbow a single journalist in the face at a charity football match during the next parliament. I think we can all agree that’s pretty pie in the sky stuff right? But I just pledged it. So…QED.
R: Uh, well after a fashion. But of course, it’s then for the public to weigh up the plausibility of said target based on the record and character of the person in quest–
EB: –Exactly, waste of time.
R: So…on housebuilding, no commitment there either then?
EB: Now just stop it, Journalist. You know as well as I do that commitments are the gallows of credibility. Predictions prelimit progress. In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, it’d be pretty idiotic of us to tether the things we do to anything as arbitrary as the things we say. I mean how can we be expected to leap on the next political bandwagon if we’re burdened with the weight of past pronouncements?
R: Ahem, non-doms.
EB: What’s that?
R: Oh nothing, I just sneezed.
EB: Oh…bless you, Journalist. Bless you.