Peston: Bemused Ed Balls takes swipe at Tony Blair over Gandalf lockdown haircut

Gary Neville: Nick Robinson says ‘you sound like Tony Blair’

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Ex-Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls landed a blow against Tony Blair in an appearance on ITV’s flagship political programme in a moment which prompted laughter from other guests. Mr Balls made the off the cuff remark during an ad break in a clip posted to Peston’s official Twitter account.

In the clip, the former Labour MP for Morley & Outwood was asked by ITV’s Anushka Asthana whether Mr Blair was prank called by somebody pretending to be then Tory leader William Hague.

However, a flummoxed Ed Ball hesitated before questioning whether the image shown was Mr Blair at all.

He said: “Is that Tony Blair or Gandalf?”

Responding to Ms Asthana, Balls added: “False, no idea, I was so bemused by the photo I couldn’t get beyond it.”

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Gandalf, a key protagonist in the hit film series ‘The Lord of the Rings’, sported an iconic grey hairstyle during ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’.

Played by Burnley-born actor Ian McKellen, the quick-witted wizard was easily recognisable with his long grey beard, hair and signature hat.

ITV’s deputy political editor also revealed the prank call incident was in fact true.

Mr Balls, who served as the Economic Secretary to the Treasury under Mr Blair, was far from close to the ex-Labour leader during his decade at Downing Street.

In 2011, four years after Mr Blair left office, he denied taking part in the so-called ‘Project Volvo’ plot to oust the former Prime Minister from Number 10.

Mr Balls had been an ally and economic adviser to Mr Blair’s Chancellor and eventual successor Gordon Brown.

However, his comments about Mr Blair’s Covid barnet last night showed a more jovial side to their relationship.

The former Strictly Come Dancing contestant is not the first to question Mr Blair’s lockdown locks.

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Ardent Remainer Alistair Campbell mocked his former boss for his meme-making mullet during a previous appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Mr Campbell, who worked as Blair’s director of communications and Downing Street press secretary from 1997 until 2003, asked the ex-Prime Minister: “Can you explain to me how you allowed yourself to do a television interview looking like Alvin Stardust or Gerry Francis?”

Co-host Susanna Reid then made the exact same Lord of the Rings comparison as Mr Balls.

Blair replied: “Well Gandalf is better than some of the things that I’ve been called as a result there.

“Look, it was lockdown, it’s done, it’s over.”

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