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Ed Balls MP becomes BSA patron

| 01.12.2010

The news was announced at our London Open Day in September 2010, where Ed Balls spoke and answered members' questions.

Ed Balls MP, former Secretary of State for Children, Schools, and Families, now Shadow Home Secretary, has accepted the invitation of the trustees of BSA to become a patron of the British Stammering Association.

Introducing Ed Balls at the BSA London Open Day on 4th September, BSA Chief Executive Norbert Lieckfeldt paid tribute to Ed for having been very public in his declaration that he too knows what it's like to stammer, and has at times struggled with his speech: "This is a very brave thing to do, especially for someone who can pass as fluent and is in the public eye. Because we all know stammering does not convey the image of noble suffering, of bravely battling against the odds. People think he's probably just a bit nervous, or he's not concentrating, he hasn't thought about what he wants to say, or he's just that slightly bit less intelligent than the rest of us. We know this is rubbish but that is the public opinion. We all know too what it's like to be a youngster 12 or 13 years old seeing people who are successful, who can talk, thinking I wonder what it's like to just open your mouth and what you want to say just comes out without thinking about it. To have a Secretary of State no less stand up and say in public - and to a group of teenagers at the Michael Palin Centre, 'This is me, I was where you are now, and you can achieve many things you want to achieve (even become a politician)', that is a very rare and precious gift and I'd like to thank you for that."

From Ed Balls' talk at the BSA London Open Day

Speech therapy

"When I became a politician, needing to do TV, speeches, I realised it was the fact of trying not to let anybody know there was an issue that caused me the biggest problem. It took me probably two years to realise that to talk about it was a thing that for me substantially solved the problem. I had a lot of help from Jan Logan at the City Lit who made a huge difference to me. She would say, 'Why don't you try this?' and I would come back the next week and she would say 'How did you get on?' I would say, 'Well, I tried it out live on BBC TV on the 9 o'clock news that very evening. It actually works quite well.' I think the stress for me of trying out some of these techniques while on TV was nowhere near the stress for Jan of watching in real time whether it worked.

"It was a very important thing that Jan said to me about understanding stammering: there is a little bit on the surface that people see, and there's a massive amount under the surface that people don't see, and coming to terms with that and being willing to be open about it is the key thing in enabling me to move forward."

Pausing on TV

"When I'm on TV now, if I'm half way through a sentence and I pause a bit it won't bother me, I'll just carry on, and nobody else will notice. Three years ago I would have come out thinking 'I paused, did people see?' When it happened I would have tensed up, and people will have seen on the TV not the pause but my own reaction to it, which would have looked a bit strange. When actually if you get to the point where it's all right, it doesn't matter, then actually nobody notices."

You can see Ed Balls' full talk and Q&A session, as well as Harry Dhillon's keynote speech at the London Open Day, on our YouTube channel

From the Winter 2010 issue of Speaking Out, page 4