Has Balls announced the General Election?

Today, whilst the HE community has its attention on the Report and Third Reading stages of the CSF Bill because of clauses 26 & 27, the media has been interested in an amendment tabled by Ed Balls. This has grabbed the headlines because it changes the wording in relation to teaching sex education in faith schools. (I will not comment further here on that topic – though I could!)

It was in this connection that he was interviewed on this morning’s Today Programme (BBC Radio 4). The conversation moved on to other areas of the Bill and Balls started attacking the Conservative policy on Swedish style funding for parent led schools. John Humphrys tried to stop him turning the focus onto the Conservative policy to avoid answering questions about Labour’s present Bill. Balls responded by saying:

“To be honest John we have an election in a couple of months”

Humphrys did not let him finish his point. Here is the clip:

No I cannot help wondering if he has not let the cat out of the bag, before his best friend Mr Brown gets round to announcing the date of the General Election. (I am surprised that Humphrys did not take him up on it.)

Now the point of pointing this out here is to offer some hope to HE families. The real debate today is not in the Commons, but whether or not the Bill will end up in the wash-up. If it does then we are very hopeful that clauses 26 & 27 will go down the Parliamentary plug-hole. The nearer we are to an election, the more probable it is that this will happen. The fear is that Brown will hang on until June, but has Balls just told us that he plans a May 6th election?

For those who want it from the BBC’s own mouth, the recording of the interview is available here, The relevant section starts around 14½ mins.  into the interview.

P.S. During the Report Stage debate Ed Balls made an even bigger mess of dealing with the date of the election. Just before 6.45 PM, he said [Hansard]:

“I do not know what timetables we are going to have – Lord Mandelson has not yet told me of his plans, nor of the Prime Minister’s – but when the report comes out at the end of March, I will respond immediately.”

Later David Laws did not fail to comment on this [Hansard]:

“She [Annette Brooke] has now even tempted the Secretary of State into a pledge on new clause 10, which we hope to see delivered before Lord Mandelson announces the date of the next general election. It was very interesting to hear recognition from the Secretary of State that his old friend is now effectively running the Government.”

Perhaps in all this confusion there is hope!

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