Balls and Miliband brushes aside rift reports

The odd couple? Balls and Miliband have denied policy divisions
The odd couple? Balls and Miliband have denied policy divisions

By staff

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have insisted their working relationship is not turning into a repeat of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's.

The pair used separate interviews to reject reports emerging over the summer recess from the shadow Cabinet that they are struggling to get on.

Disagreements have reportedly ranged from a dispute over the form a financial transactions tax might take if implemented by Labour to the question of whether Balls undermines Miliband in shadow Cabinet meetings by constantly checking his BlackBerry.

"I was the first person who informed the leader of the opposition during a shadow Cabinet meeting a year or so ago about the forthcoming royal wedding," Balls boasted in an interview with the Independent newspaper.

"All of us are a bit guilty of using our BlackBerry but Yvette [Cooper, shadow foreign secretary and Balls' wife] said to me: 'Me and Douglas [Alexander, shadow foreign secretary] are far worse than you!'"

Balls said reports of disunity were "more laughable than concerning". He revealed that after returning from holiday Balls and Miliband spent three 90-minute sessions in as many days planning Labour' strategy ahead of the conference season.

"We spent very little time talking about these stories because they are complete and utter, total garbage," he added.

Miliband has brushed aside the reports as "nonsense" in an interview with the New Statesman.

The Labour leader faced repeated barbs about his relationship with Balls during yesterday's prime minister's questions, however.

David Cameron contrasted his "first-choice" chancellor of George Osborne with Miliband's "third choice" of Balls. He claimed that Miliband was the one who brought Balls his coffee in the morning and said this reflected "how assertive and butch the leader of the opposition is".

MPs' howls of amusement and disapproval which greeted the prime minister's jibes have obviously hit home.

"Look, you make the decisions you make," Miliband said.

"We've been working together now for 18 months. Everybody said at the time that it would be a repeat of Blair and Brown and all that. But it's total nonsense, honestly. He's been proved right about austerity."

Balls insisted that both he and Miliband had learned from the "problems" of the Blair-Brown era.

"The reality with me and Ed is that if there's a problem we sort it out between us because we have the sort of relationship where we can sit down in a room and resolve it and that's how it will be," he added.

"If there's anyone – whether its Conservatives… or any other noises offs who think their briefings can become a self-fulfilling prophecy by inventing this kind of stuff – we will prove them totally and utterly wrong."


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