Balls goes on attack, but Brown and Miliband now in 'cold war'

Minister defends aggressive campaign as PM's relations with Foreign Secretary hit a new low

Tensions in the Cabinet continue to dominate Labour's election campaign today as Ed Balls defends himself against the charge that he is waging a "class war" against the Tories.

Days after senior cabinet ministers demanded that the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families be "reined in" by the Prime Minister following last week's attempted coup, Mr Balls argues that the Government is pursuing the right strategy of exposing divisions between Labour "investment" and Tory "cuts".

The unrepentant defence, in an article in The Independent on Sunday today, will be interpreted as a direct response to Alistair Darling's warning that Britain faces its toughest public spending cuts for 20 years.

Mr Balls issues a rallying cry to activists by setting out a wide-ranging vision for how Labour should conduct its campaign – sending a strong message that he will not be inhibited by the cabinet attempt to clip his wings.

The Chancellor was among a group of senior ministers who demanded in face-to-face talks with Gordon Brown that he be more collegiate and widen his circle of influence beyond his closest ally, Mr Balls, to which Mr Brown apparently agreed.

Amid the continuing fallout from last Wednesday's botched coup by Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, it also emerged that Mr Brown, in Cabinet on Friday, promised and appealed for no recriminations between ministers in the wake of last week's turmoil.

But relations between the Prime Minister and David Miliband are at rock bottom. Supporters of the Foreign Secretary said his ambiguous and long-awaited statement on Wednesday was "honest" and that he could not bring himself to be gushing about Mr Brown.

And the attempt at reconciliation was last night hit by a fresh attack from a former Labour chief, who claimed Mr Brown was not fit to be Prime Minister and backed calls for him to step down. Peter Watt, who resigned as the party's general secretary following the proxy donations row in 2007, claimed Mr Brown lacked the "emotional intelligence" required to lead. His devastating memoirs, being serialised in The Mail on Sunday, lay bare the inside story of Mr Brown's behaviour, and damaging episodes include the "donorgate" scandal and the "election that never was", in late 2007.

Mr Miliband's brother, Ed, is being urged by supporters to run in the next leadership contest despite an understanding that he would give the Foreign Secretary a clear run. Backbencher Jon Cruddas is also increasingly likely to stand as a candidate if an election defeat triggers a succession battle.

Mr Darling and Peter Mandelson have been pressing Mr Brown to soften the strategy of creating dividing lines of "investment vs cuts" between Labour and the Tories. They have warned him against pursuing a "class war" strategy.

But in his article, Mr Balls denies the approach is based on the politics of envy and insists it is entirely legitimate to highlight Conservative policies that favour the richest – such as the inheritance tax cut for £1m estates. He says: "The Conservatives and their friends in the media think that even to talk in these terms about dividing lines between Conservative and Labour is to play old-fashioned politics or even wage class war. But how can prioritising the many, not the few, be class war when it was the cornerstone of Tony Blair's reform of the Labour constitution in 1994: the very foundation of the new Labour vision which led directly to a national minimum wage, tax credits to reward work and tackle poverty and helping a million more people to own their own homes? How can the new Clause 4 be the old class war?"

Mr Balls insists that Labour must continue its policy, embedded in last month's pre-Budget report, to delay cuts in public spending for a year to help to steer Britain out of recession.

In an interview with The Times yesterday, Mr Darling said: "The next spending review will be the toughest we have had for 20 years... to me, cutting the borrowing was never negotiable. Gordon accepts that."

Aides for Mr Balls and Mr Darling will insist that there is no contradiction between their remarks. Yet the article will be seen as an attempt by Mr Balls to shore up his position.

On Friday, the Prime Minister attempted to draw a line under the failed coup by warning there should be no recriminations. But the IoS has established that, while Mr Brown has opened his door for "peace talks" for some ministers, he has not seen the Foreign Secretary since the coup attempt.

One insider refused four times to respond to the question of whether Mr Brown was "happy" with Mr Miliband, insisting it was "not an issue".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there