Ed Balls has become the left’s Michael Portillo, reviled as a politician, now a game, well-loved, almost cuddly TV personality. I met him once on This Week and I was instantly struck by how easy, funny and genuinely likeable he was: as engaging in person as he was totally bloody awful as chancellor. Happily it was the gentle man rather than the leftist bruiser who dominated Travels in Trumpland (BBC2, Sun).
One fatuous previewer I read in the papers grumbled that he hadn’t challenged Trumpism enough. Tosh. Every location he visited — a redneck monster truck rally, a military veterans turkey shoot retreat, ICE agents in Atlanta deporting illegals, a wrestling match where he gamely stretched a Union flag leotard over his big belly briefly to reprise his role as the Englishman you most hate — Balls dutifully trotted out the same predictable leftist take on Trump: ‘divisive’, ‘rhetoric’, ‘racist’.
I’m sure he believes this cant, as will a proportion of his viewers, but the evidence refused to back it up. At the monster truck rally a black Southerner resisted several opportunities to grumble about the Confederate flag, denying that it was racist and admitting he’d voted Trump. A Mexican ‘wetback’ immigrant — she’d swum the Rio Grande aged 17 and was now a proud, middle-aged American — said she fully supported President Trump and his policy on illegals. The ICE agents were polite and professional, explaining patiently that the nice Afghan father of two they were about to deport had done himself no favours by being a drug dealer.
And to his credit Balls listened — and understood. I’m sure he hadn’t meant to make a documentary cheerleading for the joys of Trump’s America but that, more or less, is what he has given us. Presumably this is why, to protect us from wrongthink, the producers put a screed at the end telling us how many thousands of cute immigrant children had been separated from their parents as part of evil Trump’s harsh new policies. No mention of the fact that it was at least as bad under Obama, but that’s OK: the great thing was that the BBC hive mind had clearly been discombobulated. Nice one, Ed!