Iain Dale has some new and interesting information about Labour Party leadership contender, Ed Balls. Apparently whilst he was at Oxford in the 80s, Balls was a member of the Conservative Association there.
Except, of course, the news isn’t as new or interesting as Dale would have you believe. Dale quotes from an article in the Independent from July 2006 where Tory MP Philip Hollobone remembers Balls being a member of the association.
But, crucially, Dale “forgets” to link to the article in question so that his readers can check his sources for themselves. And after the bit that Dale quotes, the article goes on to say this:
“Ed hasn’t exactly advertised the fact, but he’s never sought to hide it either. It even featured in the jokes at his wedding,” I’m told.
“He joined the Tories at Oxford because they used to book top-flight political speakers, and only members were allowed to attend their lectures.
“Ed was, however, also a member of the Labour Club. He was more active in that, and was always, at heart, a man of the left.”
Dale leaps to the conclusion that because Balls was a member of the Conservative Association, he must have been a conservative. The unquoted section of the article makes it clear that Balls was a member of the association because they had interesting political meetings. The comments on Dale’s blog post go further than this and make it clear that this is really common at Oxford – if you’re interested in politics then you’ll join a number of political societies whether or not you agree with their politics.
Obviously Dale is a Tory blogger, so you’d expect him to try to attack the Labour leadership candidates. But to sink to this level shows a certain level of desperation.
If you’re going to base a blog post on an article that can be found on the web, then it’s only common courtesy to link to that article so that your readers can read it for themselves and draw their own conclusions about what you’re writing. Not doing so immediately makes people think that you’re hiding something. Which, in this case, seems to be the case.
It’s a nasty, tabloid way of reporting. And I hope that Dale aspires to be higher quality than that.