Ed Balls couldn’t hold back his tears as he emotionally interviewed Gareth Gates about his stuttering on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday.
The presenter and former Labor minister, 56, who previously spoke about his ‘decade-long battle’ with stuttering, described Gareth, 39, an ‘inspiration’ after he was revealed as the winner of this year’s Celebrity SAS last week: Whoever dares wins.
Speaking to co-host Susanna Reid, Ed credited the singer and actor for “showing him how” to be in the public eye with a speech impediment.
Bursting into tears, Ed said, “You have inspired me, you really have. I thought: if Gareth Gates can do this, so can I.
“I thought if he can be an audience, I can be an audience and it was very difficult, but I did it because you showed me how to do it.”
Emotional: Ed Balls couldn’t hold back tears as he emotionally interviewed Gareth Gates about his stuttering on Good Morning Britain on Wednesday after his own 10-year battle with the speech disorder
‘Inspirational’: The presenter, 56, described Gareth, 39, as an ‘inspiration’
Gareth gave Ed a hug and replied: ‘Thank you for saying it means a lot. Health. Just never give up!’
He added: “I’ve proven to people that you can have a condition and it doesn’t define who you are. You are capable of achieving anything you want in life. You just have to be strong.
‘My speech is greatly affected when I am tired and stressed. Under pressure. That’s the nature of the show (Celebrity SAS) – to push you to your limits. It was difficult. I have much more self-confidence now. I got a lot out of the show.’
Gareth, who came second in the first series of ITV talent show Pop Idol in 2002, went on to say he was ‘glad’ he stuttered when he became famous.
He added: “It made me stand out from the crowd. I was actually glad I stuttered!
‘It’s a fight every day. You can’t be the person you want to be. You are being held back by your condition. It has made me a much stronger person.’
In 2016, Ed spoke openly for the first time about his ‘decade-long battle’ with stuttering and how Prime Minister David Cameron’s taunts prompted him to go public with his condition.
The former shadow chancellor said he was not diagnosed with the condition until he was 41 – leaving him stranded during speeches and debates.
‘You showed me how it’s done’: Ed credited the singer and actor for ‘showing him how’ to be in the public eye with a speech impediment
Bursting into tears, Ed said, “You have inspired me, you really have. I thought: if Gareth Gates can do this, so can I. It was very difficult, but I did it because you showed me how to do it’
Gareth gave Ed a hug and replied: ‘Thank you for saying it means a lot. Health. Just never give up! I have proven to people that you can have a condition and that it should not determine who you are’
In his book Speaking Out: Lessons in Life and Politics, he recalls how Cameron led the cheers from the front bench of the House of Commons – and nicknamed him ‘Blinky Balls’.
The mocking comments eventually led Ed to make his problem public – first in a newspaper article, then in a radio interview, after which, he admits, “tears welled up.”
He first noticed his stutter when he was appointed minister in 2006. In every TV interview, “there was at least one moment when my voice caught and my eyes stared as I clenched my throat and fist,” he wrote.
‘It didn’t take long for people to realize it. I learned that I had been nicknamed ‘Blinky Balls’ by Conservative Central Office, supposedly courtesy of Cameron.
‘When the Tories had a chance to see me up close across the control room, a new phenomenon occurred: if I hesitated in answering a question, they would shout ‘Errrr’, which made me hesitate even more, and the laughter and mocking ‘ Errrr’s would get louder.’
A year later, as Education Minister, he tried to read a statement in the House of Commons – ‘but for seconds I couldn’t say anything. When I finally sat down, I heard the late, great Gwyneth Dunwoody say in a very loud voice, “He’s supposed to be the Secretary of State and he can’t even get his words out.”
When one of his assistants suggested he consult the British Stammering Association website, his initial thought was, ‘Why am I reading this? I don’t stutter.’
But he was diagnosed with an ‘interior stutter’, better known as a block. “I thought, ‘Here I am, 41 years old, a minister, and I just found out I stutter,’” he recalls. The assistant put him in touch with a therapist.
“I’m ashamed to say I was both skeptical and a little worried about the prospect,” Ed said. “It all felt a bit Cherie Blair and Carole Caplin.”
The therapist taught him to slow down his speaking pace, “calm down and gain control.” He was also advised to make his problem public, but he feared this would be seen as a sign of weakness.
Ed then met former Monty Python star Michael Palin, who has campaigned to raise awareness of stuttering as a serious problem. He visited Palin’s Center for Stammering Children in London in 2011.
There, a father whose child suffered from stuttering said that Ed was a “coward” for not speaking up about himself. “Why don’t you give these kids some hope and confidence that you can stutter and become a minister?” he asked him.
Ed was ‘mortified’ and wrote an article for The Times admitting he had the condition.
However, the stutter returned when he responded to George Osborne’s autumn statement in 2012.
“I suddenly had a really bad block, and there was a storm of noise and ridicule from the Tories, with David Cameron leading the laughs,” he recalled.
The incident convinced him to speak on Radio 4’s Today program the next morning about his stuttering and how it could affect his performance in the House of Commons.
“I came out of the Today interview and my phone exploded with messages saying, ‘That was brilliant,’” he wrote.
‘But when the tears welled up, I sat disconsolately in a room for ten minutes and thought, ‘Why expose myself like that?’.’
Last month, Gareth got emotional when speaking about growing up with a stutter on Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.
A tearful Gates, who came second to Will Young on Pop Idol in 2002, said: “For me, growing up was hard – at school, stuttering.
“School was just… (I was) verbally and physically abused. Boys just holding me and shouting things,” said Gareth, occasionally pausing to wipe tears from his eyes.
“I think that’s why I’m here, to show myself that I’m stronger, and hopefully I won’t break down this time.”
Last week, Gates was named winner of the 2023 military-style series, beating rival, disgraced former health secretary Matt Hancock.
While discussing how much winning a reality TV show means to him, he said: ‘When I was a 17-year-old boy, I took part in a talent show on TV. I made it to the final, but didn’t win.
“But twenty years later I wanted to prove to myself that I am strong and that I can last until the end and hopefully even win.”
He later described the victory and glory as “enlightening” for twenty years after losing to Will on the show.
He said: ‘I finally thought, I actually won a TV talent show and didn’t come second this time. A huge burden was lifted from my shoulders. I’ve finally rid myself of being Britain’s biggest loser in 2002.’
After Pop Idol, Gareth scored several big hits, including the million-selling cover of Unchained Melody and Stupid Mistake.
He has returned to TV in recent years, including taking part in Dancing on Ice, The Big Reunion and now Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins.
Gareth beat fellow recruits Matt Hancock, 45, and Danielle Lloyd, 39, after the other 16 celebrities failed to make the final.
Lead Instructor Billy Billingham MBE QCB and his team of Directing Staff (DS), Foxy (Jason Fox), Rudy Reyes and Chris Oliver decided that Gareth was the only celebrity who had the mental and physical strength and resilience to pass the course.
After his name was announced, Gareth became shocked and said: ‘Thank you, staff. Wow. Thank you.’
Overcome: It comes after Gareth broke down in tears as he successfully completed Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins training
Success: Lead instructor Billy Billingham decided Gareth was the only celebrity who had the mental and physical strength and resilience to pass the course (L-R) Matt Hancock, Gareth Gates, Danielle Lloyd