Clegg on condom slur: ‘I’ve had nicer birthday wishes than that’

Nick Clegg has reacted to Boris Johnson's description of him as David Cameron Cameron's  "lapdog-cum-prophylactic protection device", saying he had had "nicer birthday wishes".

The deputy prime minister was asked about the incident – the latest in a long war-of-words between the two men – during his weekly appearance on an LBC phone-in show.

"This was on my birthday. I've had nicer birthday wishes than that," he said.

Clegg then invited Johnson to end the name-calling and join the truce he is enjoying with shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who yesterday told the New Statesman that he understood "totally" why Nick Clegg went into coalition with the Conservatives.

"Name-calling is passé," Clegg said.

"It's 2013. Join Ed balls and myself and lets a have a truce.

"We've all important jobs to get on to and most Londoners listening to this would rather we focused on it."

Asked about the reported rapprochement between him and the shadow chancellor, which could clear the ground for a Lib-Lab coalition after 2015, Clegg branded the reports "completely ridiculous".

He added: "Ed Balls confessed to the fact he and I had a passing friendly conversation in the House of Commons. If this is interpreted as something of political significance then we've reached the height of hype.

"I try to always in politics be civil and polite, but tough. It doesn't mean you can't treat someone like a human being. We're thick skinned enough now to be friendly on a human level."

The deputy prime minister stoked the coverage of the issue yesterday when he took part in a famous internet meme by tweeting the words 'Ed Balls'.

Balls responded by tweeting a now-infamous line from the 2010 TV debates: "I agree with Nick."