GMB: Ed Balls discusses suffering with a stammer
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Guest Good Morning Britain presenter and former Labour MP Ed Balls opened up about his stammer on Wednesday morning with co-presenter Susanna Reid. As the pair spoke about his increase in confidence over the years, Ed reflected on the struggles he encountered whilst speaking in the cabinet and not being able to read from an autocue. He also opened up on the advice he gives other young people with the same condition as he encourages them to embrace their differences.
Susanna began: “You’re very open about it, and you said to me this morning, ‘The Ed Balls of 12 years ago would not believe what you do now.’
“And that’s not the Ed Balls who was a politician and MP who couldn’t believe that you could be the journalist.
“There’s something much more personal, and I think it’s very inspiring, especially for any children out there who might be struggling with a stammer.
“Because it was only in your recent history that you actually managed to acknowledge and deal with the stammer that you have.”
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Ed explained: “I didn’t find out it was a stammer until I was in the Cabinet, my dad had said to me when I got selected as an MP he heard me on the radio.
“He said, ‘I don’t know what it is, but you’ve got the same as me, I don’t think it will stop you ever getting on and be so hard.’
“In the cabinet, I couldn’t do autocue, I could never read a speech. I had to do everything off the cuff, I would learn my speeches and then do them as if off the cuff,” he revealed.
Ed continued: “But in fact, I knew what I was saying, in questions in the Commons, we had to read out the precise words, and it was a nightmare.
“They said to me, ‘Until you are public about it, it will never get better,’ I didn’t do that until 2009, and since then, it takes the pressure away.
“Sometimes it goes wrong, but you know that’s fine, we all are influent in our speaking in normal life but the idea that I could be on Good Morning Britain.
“Looking at the screen reading the autocue, getting through a morning like this with all this noise in my ear, I mean 12 years ago I would be a meltdown, and actually today I’m loving it,” he admitted.
Susanna praised him: “You’re just doing such a terrific job, and I do think, and I know that you think it’s really important as well.
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“Just to encourage anyone watching who thinks, ‘What is this thing I am struggling with and how can I get the confidence to speak?'”
Ed continued: “Gareth Gates the singer, King George the sixth, Ed Sheeran they’ve all got stammers, and you have to accept it.
“It’s not something you catch, it never goes away, it’s part of who you are, and if you own it and say this is who I am and take it or leave it and have a go, then it’s amazing what you can do.
“I stammer all the time, I will stammer for two and a half hours through the show, and everybody will say afterwards, or most people will say ‘I didn’t notice anything.’
“But you just ride with it and roll through it and just think ‘It’s fine, it’s just me,’” he added.
Susanna replied: “Terrific, and I’m so glad your open about it because I think it really helps.”
Ending the conversation, Ed revealed: “It’s the only way to deal with it, I mean anybody who is covering it up, so many people push these things underneath.
“So many kids who think I can’t do it because it would be too hard, and the truth is being open and owning it that’s how you deal with life.
“I hope that there are lots of young people that think if I want to be in the cabinet, then go for it.”
Good Morning Britain airs weekdays from 6am on ITV.
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