Balls points finger at Conservatives over the leak of 'Blair plot' papers

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Ed Balls suggested yesterday that the Conservative Party may have played a part in leaking his private papers charting Gordon Brown's attempts to dislodge Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

The documents, which surfaced in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, showed how Mr Brown's allies, including Mr Balls and Ed Miliband, began planning a Blair-to-Brown transition soon after the 2005 general election.

The papers may have been mislaid or stolen when Mr Balls, the former Education Secretary, moved out of the Department of Education's offices when Labour lost power in May last year.

Mr Balls claimed yesterday that the publication was "an attempt to take attention away from what is going on in this country".

After a request from Mr Balls, Whitehall launched an investigation but it will not be a formal leak inquiry because they are not Government documents.

The shadow Chancellor dismissed the Telegraph's claim that the papers revealed a "brutal" plot to oust Mr Blair.

"There is nothing here to justify talk of a plot," he said, insisting the documents referred only to the attempt, agreed by Mr Blair and Mr Brown, to ensure a "stable and orderly transition" when the Prime Minister stepped down.

Asked about Mr Brown's description in the papers of Mr Blair's ideas on the transition as "shallow", "inconsistent" and "muddled," Mr Balls admitted the changeover was not "always sweetness and light."

He added: "There were times when their relationship was fraught and that was very frustrating for all of us."

Some Tories believe that a Labour figure leaked the papers in order to damage Mr Balls at a time when he is emerging as a pivotal figure in Labour and there is grumbling within the party about Mr Miliband's performance as its leader.

Ed Miliband dismissed the revelations as "an over-hyped version of history." He said: "The era of Blair and Brown is over and we're a party looking outwards to the country, not inwards and talking to ourselves."