John Street’s Diary November 25

Written By: John Street
Published: November 25, 2011 Last modified: November 25, 2011

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls usually plays a blinder when he is allowed to perform to his strengths – economics – but he could not resist the invitation by Total Politics to say what moves him to tears. “I cry at the Antiques Roadshow. You know, when someone comes in with some family heirloom and the expert says: ‘Do you know how much this is worth? It’s valued at X thousand pounds’. And they say: ‘I’m amazed it’s worth that much, but it means more to me than money.’ Incredibly emotional.” Of course, he’s a big boy and may well have meant it “tongue in cheek”. But it is surely a matter of time before some bright spark extends the Antiques Roadshow image to work in Gordon Brown’s sell-off of half Britain’s gold reserves in 17 auctions between 1999 and 2002 at the then 20-year low of between $256 and $296 dollars an ounce. The 400 tons of precious metal brought a then much needed £2.3 billion into the Exchequer’s coffers but it was a fraction of the prices gold has commanded ever since and has perplexed many of Mr Brown’s friends and foes. The person usually ­credited with advising Mr Brown to sell off of the non-performing gold assets is… Mr Balls.


Leading light of The Guardian Allegra Stratton was this week confirmed as the new political editor of BBC2’s Newsnight, succeeding the redoubtable veteran Michael Crick who is now on Channel 4 News. The impeccably well-connected Ms Stratton was at one point tipped for the Ed  Miliband ­consigliere role eventually taken by Tom Baldwin. Possessor of one of the better ­contacts books in Westminster ­politics, she started as a producer on Newsnight.


Tony Blair has oft looked wistfully towards the European Union in search of a new, hands-on political role . But now his name has been tentatively mentioned as a possible President of the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament following the announcement this week by the incumbent, former Danish PM Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, that he is standing down. Rasmussen, who has held the post since 2004, has had something of an inauspicious watch in that time as left-wing governments have lost power across the EU, most recently in Spain and Greece. Mr Rasmussen was most recently a lone voice in support of Greek PM Papandreou’s last minute call for a referendum on the bailout. But if the prospect of Mr Blair taking the helm of a body with the word “Socialist” in its title is possibly too fanciful, his would-be successor David Miliband – who recently lectured on the electoral deficiencies of European socialism – is also being touted in Brussels as a possible candidate, conjuring up images for some, of a “prince across the water”.