Balls: ‘Ed and I get on really, really, really well – but we never go to the pub’

Ed Balls launched into a defence of his relationship with his party leader today, after an email emerged showing Ed Miliband's team think he is a "nightmare".

Appearing on ITV's Agenda, Balls insisted the two got on well and rejected suggestions that their relations were similar to those between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

"Actually Ed and I get on really, really, really, well. We work very closely together, but are you going to believe it? Not tonight," he said.

Elsewhere in the interview Balls' comments did suggest a frostiness between the two men.

Asked when he last went to the pub with Miliband, he replied: "I've known Ed 20 years and I can't think that I've ever been… Different people like different places, and I was last in the pub yesterday… I don't know if he likes the pub or not."

He was also open about disagreements with his party leader, saying: " If I said to you that Ed and I agree on every issue then I think you'd be a bit doubtful about it because I wouldn't be doing my job and sometimes we have to disagree.

"When we have an issue we sit round a table together we sort it out and then we move forward. We have no outstanding difficult issues between us."

The email revealing the tensions within Labour was inadvertently leaked when Miliband adviser Torsten Bell accidentally copied in Conservative MP James Morris, rather than the Labour pollster of the same name.

The emails hinted at a mutual exasperation between the Miliband and Balls offices, although at nothing like the level of the open warfare during Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's time in office.

Nevertheless, the evidence will be seized on by the Conservatives, who are keen to make reports of a Miliband/Balls split a key part of their election strategy.

"I think it’s fair to say that people send silly e-mails in offices, and this was one of them," Miliband said.

"I'm really proud to have him as the shadow chancellor alongside me. He's somebody who I think has been right in his criticism of the government's economic policy and he's also leading the way on this cost-of-living crisis that we've been talking about."

Miliband is thought to be critical of the 'flatlining' gesture Balls makes at PMQs, saying it makes the party hostage to fortune and is anyway inaccurate now there is an economic recovery.

A report in today's Times said Ball's team are known as the 'pirates' due to the guffaws which can be heard coming from their office.