By Rebecca Burns
Labour leadership candidate Ed Balls has warned his party must stay focused on shaping its new identity rather than criticising the Liberal Democrats.
The shadow education secretary said the party must be careful not to fall into David Cameron's "trap" by "focusing our fire too much on the Liberal Democrats" who are "wheeled out by Downing Street to defend the most unpopular decisions".
Writing in the Times, he reminded his party "Labour must focus its fire on the Tories, not just on the Liberal cannon fodder shielding Mr Cameron".
Mr Balls said the Conservatives were trying to "detoxify the Conservative brand" but "Labour must beware of departing from the centre ground".
The shadow education secretary warned Labour must avoid a repeat of the 1930s when "the media and political elites... insisted that the government cut spending as quickly as possible".
The warning comes as the prime minister and deputy prime minister send a letter to their coalition colleagues highlighting ''deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery'' as the country's most vital issue.
Mr Balls said: "Labour must avoid the media trap, encouraged by the coalition, that the first and most fundamental question in British politics is cutting the deficit."
He urged the party to concentrate on communicating its values to its traditional supporters, saying: "It's no good simply being credible if we reach the next election and nobody can distinguish between David Cameron, Nick Clegg and our new leader; but it's no good just being radical if we lose touch with the mainstream views of working people."
The result of the Labour leadership contest will be announced on 25th September.