Ed Balls has recounted a confusing phone call he received from Gordon Brown in which he confused a senior Labour colleague’s resignation with a joint of beef.
The ex-MP said he had been at Heathrow Airport back in 1998 when Brown had rung in a panic to alert him Peter Mandelson had resigned from the cabinet.
But in a state of confusion, Balls was more worried about an expensive joint of beef, which he and wife Yvette Cooper had intended to take to Italy as a Christmas present but managed to leave in the fridge at home.
Balls had been flying out to visit his parents, but was confronted with two alarming situations at once, as the incoming call from Brown coincided with his realisation the beef had been left behind.
“Yvette’s father was behind the wheel as we pulled into Heathrow when my pager bleeped with a text: ‘CALL ME URGENTLY - GORDON.’” Balls recounted in a post on Facebook.
“I called him, while tripping through the usual travel checklist in my mind: passport, wallet, presents, and realised with a sudden jolt that we had left the prime joint back in the fridge at Yvette’s parents’ Hampshire home.”
It was then that the ridiculous mix-up began.
“Gordon’s voice blared out from my phone: ‘Have you seen the news? Mandelson’s resigned!’ I barely heard him. I just looked across at Yvette with horror, and said: ‘Where’s the beef?!’
“As Yvette began a frantic and fruitless search of the back seat, Gordon yelled down the phone, incredulous: ‘What do you mean, “Where’s the beef?” That is the beef! Mandelson’s resigned!’
“I looked helplessly at Yvette. ‘What are we going to do?’
“An increasingly exasperated Gordon shouted: ‘There’s nothing to be done! He’s gone!’
“Calculating the timings in my head, I asked Yvette: ‘Is it too late to turn back?’ Gordon’s voice boomed out from the speaker on my phone:
There's no turning back now!
Balls made the revelations ahead of the release of his new book, Speaking Out, and has gained popularity again after his ejection as an MP by joining the Strictly Come Dancing line-up.
The ex-shadow chancellor, who has a long history of enjoying himself more than most MPs on the dance floor, will become the first male politician to appear on the popular BBC1 show.