Just two years ago, Ed Balls was a political heavyweight: the shadow Chancellor in Ed Milliband’s Labour opposition and with a reputation for ruthlessness.
But after becoming one of the most high profile casualties of the 2015 general election, when he was ousted from his Morley and Outwood seat, Ed is now remembered just as vividly as a surprise public favourite on 2016’s Strictly Come Dancing .
He released his political memoir Speaking Out in April and, making the most of his new-found popularity, Ed has now embarked on a series of appearances around the country with Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland for An Evening With Ed Balls: Strictly Speaking Out, which he is bringing to the Greenwich Theatre on May 15.
Speaking to The Wharf, he said: “People come to the show because they are interested about what it’s like to be in politics, but also because they want to know what it’s like to be on Strictly.
“It was a huge surprise to get such a warm response from the public. As a politician you feel you have to put up a front. You have to seem confident and in control and focused on absolutely nothing else, but on Strictly people liked that I didn’t take myself seriously and seemed more human.
“Politics should be about showing the real you, rather than changing who you are. If you want politicians to be otherworldly and perfect then you’re only going to be disappointed because they’re just human beings.
“When you have these unrealistic expectations, that’s when the wrong people get in. You get the politicians you deserve.”
Ed, who has long been critical of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also denied rumours that he had decided against running for Parliament in June’s election because he didn’t want to distract attention from a possible leadership bid from his wife Yvette Cooper.
He said: “In life you should look forward and move on to the next thing. It would have been going backwards for me to run at this stage. I’m not saying never, but for now I’m doing different things.
“Who knows what will come next at the moment. We don’t know what the result will be at the general election, so we certainly aren’t talking about leadership elections right now.”
However, he added: “I have always been a Jeremy Corbyn sceptic. I have quite different views from him on a number of subjects, but it’s not my decision and the election is not just about the leader.
“At the moment the polls are giving a very clear indication of what the election result looks like, and I haven’t seen anything to suggest the polls are wrong.
“Anything can happen, it’s such an unstable time. But at the moment, most people will look at the local election results and opinion polls and say Theresa May is on track to be the next Prime Minister.
“It’s going to be a difficult night for Labour. But anything could happen.”
This sense of instability and unpredictability runs throughout his show, which Ed said includes “plenty of fun and laughs” as well as political discussions.
He said: “Politics is so important right now. We have had the most unstable couple of years.
“Look at the decision to leave the EU and how we go about making that happen. What decisions are made now will impact on jobs and employers and public services for years to come.
“It’s a strange time in Britain and a strange time in the rest of the world, and so it’s important to talk about what’s happening to politics.”
He added: “Politics is about whether, in difficult times, a country unites or becomes more divided. It’s about finding a common purpose.
“I don’t have any answers, and I don’t pretend to. You have to start by trying to understand the world around you, then you can look for the answers.”
Ed Balls will be at the Greenwich Theatre on May 15.
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