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Speaking Out: Lessons in Life and Politics

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  353 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

A life in and out of politics – from the despatch box to the stage on Strictly – by one of Britain’s most influential and well-loved political figures.

'Full of anecdote, insight and authenticity’ Evening Standard BOOKS OF THE YEAR

'Witty, reflective and engaging' Nick Robinson

'Honest and revealing' Michael Palin

'Fascinating, heartfelt' Kay Burley
...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published April 20th 2017 by Arrow
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Mat Davies
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Witty, insightful and never less than engaging memoir from the Strictly Come Dancing star turned politician. Or is it the other way around? Balls emerges from this memoir as a much more rounded human being than he was often portrayed. He is honest in his failings and mistakes but resolute in his continued belief that politics and politicians can improve the collective well being of a country, despite all the cynicism that surrounds that calling. He is never bitchy about former collegaues althoug ...more
Cath Russell
One of the best books about politics I've ever read. It (and Strictly Come Dancing) has completely changed my opinion on Ed Balls. The book is informative and revealing and his sense of humour really shines through. Loved it.
Dan
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Ed Balls was a Labour MP who lost his seat in the 2015 election and has since found fame after appearing on Strictly Come Dancing and, amongst other things, dancing to Gangnam Style. This is a memoir of his career as a politician.

The chapters are organised into themes here which I wasn't a fan of. So many people seem to try to write memoirs that aren't in chronological order to make them more interesting but personally I think they usually work better in (mostly) chronological order. Whilst eac
...more
Debbie
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read but no chapter on Strictly, despite the cover??

Enjoyable read, particularly so when read as part of a series of different biographies from a number of different people around at the same time.
However, the cover does say updated for Strictly, and there's nothing in the Kindle edition on that...
Megan Jones
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the night of the 7th May 2015 Ed Balls thought he would be waking up as the new Chancellor, instead he was out of a job. For two decades he had been at the centre of Labour and working his way up through the ranks. This book is a record of his life in politics including how lessons can be learnt when things go wrong.
I did not read this for political views but for a general interest into politics and politicians thoughts behind events. ‘Speaking Out’ is a very good account of Ed’s career in po
...more
Katy
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting and thought provoking. Totally changed my opinion of Ed Balls - he came across as humorous and humble (for the most part) and a genuine guy - rare qualities among politicians, in my view.
Rob Thompson
The slowest marathon runner in Parliament, but the best fundraiser

Edward Michael Balls is a retired British Labour and Co-operative politician who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Normanton from 2005 to 2010 and for Morley and Outwood from 2010 to 2015, when he lost his seat to Andrea Jenkyns of the Conservative Party. For two decades he had been at the centre of Labour and working his way up through the ranks. This book is a record of his life in politics including how lessons can be learn
...more
RK
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ok. Confession time. It was only after I had read Alistair Darling's excellent 'Back from the Brink' that I picked up this book, curious about what it would say. The earlier chapters were good, in part. I liked that they were short, and readable (I started this book during flu season, and could not have gone through anything more at the time. I needed to sleep for days in order to recover). I liked reading about the economic tests on whether euro membership would make sense. I liked reading abou ...more
Robin
Jul 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ed Balls has written a great yarn with insightful commentary and honest assessments of relationships in the Parliamentary Party during an exciting period in British politics. The lack of recrimination and backstabbing must be a disappointment to readers for whom that is the substance of political life. Indeed it is not. Balls' book is similar to that of Gareth Evans', Diaries of a Cabinet Minister (an Australian inside view of another working, thoughtful government). Differences of opinion and p ...more
John
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't quite get what this book is supposed to be about. I thought it'd be a telling memoir from a key individual at the centre of New Labour; a courageous, brutally honest, boisterous telling of the good, the bad, and the indifferent of the Blair/Brown governments and the Miliband opposition. I thought he'd tell us what really happened, argue that we shouldn't turn away from that time because of the mistakes of Iraq or because too many were too quick to accept the Tory lies about the 2008 fina ...more
Izzy Wood
If you're looking for an exposé, for the salacious bits, for recriminations, for drama, this is not the memoir for you. Ed Balls is affable, gently humorous if a little bland in his depiction of his time in government and in opposition. For me this was is as inoffensive and as entertaining as Strictly (in both the positive and negative sense).

The thematic structuring of the book was interesting (chapters like 'identity', 'clowns', 'spin') but then taken a bit too literally, chronology basically
...more
Jemma
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A full and frank account of his years in the public eye. You may not agree with him on all his political points but he seems to hold them honestly. It is also a good reminder of the achievements of the New Labour years and puts many things in context. For instance, who knew that Chief Secretaries of the Treasury traditionally leave humorous notes for their successor and the fuss about the one received by Laws and leaked by Osborne, was bad form.

The Epilogue, about his experience on Strictly, is
...more
Susan
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was a very good book; I really liked it. Reading this is like listening to a lot of genuinely interesting anecdotes about a politician and thoughts about political life. Ed Balls is a reflective person, and able to write clearly about his experience and views. He comes over as being quite a genuine and honest man as well - there were only a couple of times when I felt I was being fed a line. (One was when he wrote about the MP's expenses scandal; he put the point of view of how ha ...more
Rich
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quite inspiring and motivational, showing a real human side to a politician.
I've always admired Ed Balls, particularly from his days in DCSF, mostly due to how he portrayed himself and wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed regardless of the Tory thrashing.
This is very well done, telling us his background, his thoughts on our current situation and most importantly his time in politics.
I for one, didn't realise that Ed had been in the treasury (probably because I was only a toddler at
...more
Dave Poole
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never voted Labour but this book has made me consider the possibility once populism has died a swift death.

There are a lot of lessons in this book. Situations you think you know about are completely different to how they were portrayed at the time. Politicians are not as adversarial as you'd think. There's more common sense than dogma.

Ed Balls could do for politics what James Herriot did for vets or Gervaise Phinn did for schools inspection.
Mandy Jacobs
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such an honest and insightful read. I knew very little about Ed Balls except what I had read in the press while he was a politician. His appearance on This Week alongside Michael Portillo got me curious. Well, I am so glad I was curious enough to pick up this book. I feel I now know a great deal about the man but also I have a much better understanding of our political system here in the United Kingdom and the great challenges that we currently face as a country. A truly great read.
Teresa
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, politics
An entertaining and easy read. I liked the format of the book; a collection of essays about various aspects of life rather than a chronological narrative. He comes across as a good bloke who cared about the job he did . Well worth a read, whatever your politics.
James Lehmann
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very insightful and honest biography by a former senior British politician, offering numerous humorous anecdotes and valuable life lessons. Ed Balls' 'Speaking Out' was extremely readable, and is a political memoir which I highly recommend, even for those not especially interested in politics.
Stephen
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a few political autobiographies but this is good. Ed Balls should be commended on how open he is and how he groups it around subjects - eg. how should a politician combine his/her family life with their career etc.
I was sceptical when I started but I enjoyed it.
Louise Armstrong
I wish we had more politicians who could write! I finished the whole book and enjoyed it. He has some very interesting things to say. It's nice to know that some MPs seem like good eggs. I wish more Labour MPs would say that good economics is good for society.
Anne Gibbons-Ellis
Entertaining and informative

an uplifting read with a good overview of politics and what goes on behind the scenes. The strictly section was very entertaining.
Karl Wardlaw
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read. I’m to the left of Ed so didn’t like him lumping Jeremy Corbyn in with the likes of Nigel Farage or Donald Trump.
Ralyn Longs
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starts weak but turns into an interesting, at times insightful read very quickly. Gives a good view into Ed Balls, albeit sometimes tempered with a bit too much self-justification...
Rob
May 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice cosy read. Nothing too radical of course!!
Kevin Findlay
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A couple of years makes a lot of difference in politics. Balls is from my Labour era and I share a lot of his politics. But it's all gone, Labour is a different party now and our Ed is a reality TV star. Fascinating, if one sided, insight to the Blair and Brown years from an insider.
Phil
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Ed Balls personally as my diligent former constituency MP and from the few personal interactions I’ve had with him. This memoir, unfortunately, suffers from all the blandness and reluctance to offend that many similar documents do. In its author’s case, its equivocations about colleagues and policy clearly arise from his comparative youth and the fact that, though now out of Parliamentary office, he might well wish to return to the party political sphere and would be well-advised not to p ...more
Peter Wanless
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this a lot. Like Ed Balls my career has spanned the Treasury and the Education department so I am familiar with many of the issues and people he describes. I was even present at the famous meeting with Dolly Parton. I also share very strongly the importance he attaches to cultivating your hinterland when there are so many pressures in public life to demonstrate nothing but a relentless sense of specific civic (or charitable) duty. The values that drive that duty can be applied to a wider ...more
David Simmons
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable and highly readable, this book takes themes of Ed Balls's life, in and out of politics, and places them within the context of his life and public role. Written before his foray into public dancing spectacle (which I had no particular desire to watch) it places many of the events of the Labour years from 1992 - 2015 into sharp perspective, placing everything in the context of that history as a whole, whilst also detailing life as a politician. You finish the book with a greater sense of ...more
toria (vikz writes)
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