Ed Balls post-politics career took another unexpected turn when he hosted a dinner party for dead celebrities on Radio 4 this morning.
The former cabinet minister was given the opportunity to choose five guests for the programme. They were then ‘brought back to life’ by digging out archive interviews and using clips to give the impression of a round table conversation that took place over a backing track of clinking plates and cutlery.
Balls’ guest list reflected his background that now includes not just a lengthy period at the heart of the Labour party but also a more recent turn on Strictly Come Dancing.
As well as politicians Nancy Astor and Denis Healey he was joined, virtually, by comedians Les Dawson and Joan Rivers and American actor and song and dance man Danny Kaye.
The former MP explained to the Radio Times how his choices were limited: “It has to feel like a real dinner party, so if you had Stalin it wouldn’t work because nobody else would come. You have to have someone who is in the archives, so that rules out Boudicca or Henry V.”
And the man who was one of the architects of New Labour nearly made a surprising choice for the line up. He explained: “Margaret Thatcher would have been good, but she might have dominated.”
Balls is an accomplished piano player giving the opportunity to use archive of Les Dawson – who was more famous for tickling the ivories incompetently – playing Mozart perfectly. And the programme cleverly wove different conversations together to give the impression that the unreconstructed Dawson had an argument about women’s roles with Rivers and Astor, the first female to take her seat as an MP in the Commons.
Balls described himself in the programme as an “entertainment insider” following a stint with the touring version of Strictly and he spoke about his passion for cooking. Balls has competed on the celebrity version of The Great British Bake Off in aid of Comic Relief. His menu for his deceased guests included chocolate mousse, macaroons – allowing producers to use a clip of Joan Rivers praising the sweet treats – and his famous lasagne. In 2012 it was claimed that Balls and his wife Yvette Cooper were plotting with others over a lasagne dinner to overthrow then Labour leader Ed Miliband.