Owen Jones clashes with Ed Balls over George Osborne wedding confetti protest

An edited image of Ed Balls and Owen Jones on the set of Good Morning Britain.

Journalist and activist Owen Jones clashed with Good Morning Britain (GMB) presenters after questioning the impact of a climate protest at George Osborne’s wedding.

The out gay columnist said that he didn’t believe the wedding was “ruined” after an unnamed protestor threw orange confetti over the ex-chancellor and his newly-wed wife, Thea Rogers, immediately after the ceremony on Saturday (8 July).

“Genuinely, do you think [the wedding] was ruined by some orange confetti?” Jones asks GMB presenter and former Labour MP Ed Balls. “I really don’t think so, I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s actually proportionate whatsoever.”

The as-yet unnamed protestor was linked to the climate activist group Just Stop Oil, who have been making headlines for their non-violent protests against new oil and gas licenses in the UK.

However, in a statement released following the protest, Just Stop Oil denied that it was was responsible for the action, but applauded the use of orange confetti at the wedding.

“If it was a form of protest — which is yet to be established — we applaud it and thank the person concerned. It was peaceful and not especially disruptive, but got massive media attention for Just Stop Oil’s demand,” the statement read.

You may like to watch

The statement also said that the protest helped to highlight George Osborne’s hand in creating economic austerity, which it claimed was responsible for “over 300,000 excess deaths.”

During the GMB segment, Ed Balls, who attended the wedding, argued that the protest was a step too far and that he believed individuals could disagree politically, but remain civil.

“I’ve been deeply angered by things that George Osborne has done,” he said. “I was deeply angered by the police cuts, I hated the way in which he stigmatised people claiming tax credits, claiming that people were sitting behind the curtains, lazing around.

“But I think it’s possible to be civil to people and disagree with them.”

Jones responded to this by saying that Osborne’s actions while he was chancellor between 2010 and 2016 amounted to more than just a disagreement.

“He whipped up hatred against some of the most vulnerable people in society, Ed,” he said.

Presenter Susanna Reid also weighed in on the discussion, comparing the situation to former health secretary Matt Hancock’s inclusion in I’m a Celebrity… Get Me out of Here!, asking whether politicians deserve to be punished “in perpetuity” for their actions.

In response, Jones said: “It’s more the case that I think politicians who do very terrible things and destroy the lives of huge groups of people face accountability.

“A really famous example that always does my head in is George W Bush,” he continued. “George W Bush invaded Iraq, thousands of people died – he got reinvented as a cuddly statesman. You know, there was this cuddly moment where he hands a sweet to [Michelle Obama].”

Jones added that the policies George Osborne had implemented and their impact on the already impoverished were “far, far, far worse than orange confetti at your wedding day.”

Following the segment, several social media users criticised Ed Balls after he compared the incident to the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, saying that right-wing groups were motivated to commit violence against her and several other politicians “on the basis of their views,” which he believed was now happening with these protests.

“We need to be careful to get in a world where if we disagree with people to hate them, because some people take that to terrible places.”

In response, Jones said he believed Balls needed to “be careful” about comparing debates on civility politics to far-right violence.

“What you’re talking about there is a neo-Nazi, a neo-Nazi who was driven by fascism,” he continued.

“I got beaten up by a neo-Nazi on my birthday and they were sent to prison for nearly three years. I’m not going to conflate that with issues of civility, that’s about far-right violence. I think it belittles the issue to bring that and conflate the two.”