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Ed Balls attacks politicians over use of family photos


Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has expressed distaste at politicians doing photoshoots with their children - the day after Ed Miliband was pictured at home with his family.

In an interview, Mr Balls said he would "never ever" allow such images to be used, no matter how "short term, tactical and tempting" it might be.

The Labour leader was seen on the front page of the Daily Mirror yesterday cuddling younger son Samuel, while wife Justine held two-year-old Daniel.

Further pictures inside showed the parents playing with their children in front of a Christmas tree.

The highly personal portraits emerged with Mr Miliband under pressure over poor opinion polls and badly-received showings in the Commons.

David Cameron has previously taken part in similar photoshoots.

However, speaking to the Fabian Review, Mr Balls indicated he and wife Yvette Cooper - the shadow home secretary - would not involve their son and two daughters in such publicity.

"The most precious thing for me and us is definitely protecting our children so that they can be who they want to be," he said.

Without mentioning the Prime Minister or Mr Miliband, the shadow chancellor added: "However short-term, tactical and tempting it might be to have pictures on the front of a Sunday magazine, we would never, ever do that."

It is not clear whether the interview was carried out before the Mirror article appeared.

Mr Balls dismissed suggestions that he wanted to unseat Mr Miliband, whom he lost to in last year's leadership contest.

He insisted he backed the leader "100%" and warned against the party "turning in on itself", but added: "Who knows what will happen in life?"

"I want to be Chancellor," Mr Balls said. "As I sit here today, I'm happy that is the summit of my ambition. (But) God knows what can happen in life."

The former Cabinet minister said he believed Mr Miliband was "preparing the ground" and the electorate would eventually recognise the arguments Labour was putting forward.

"I've said to Ed (Miliband) a number of times: 'You have to be good at opposition. You've got to be the answer to the big question,"' he said.

"The best moment he's had so far on doing that politically was phone hacking, though maybe that wasn't a cut-through moment for my constituents in Morley in quite the way it was in Westminster."

Mr Balls went on: "You have to prepare the ground so that when the question is asked, you are the answer. That's what he's doing."

The shadow chancellor also disclosed that he had taken advice from former Prime Minister Tony Blair - with whom he has had a stormy relationship - before drafting his response to George Osborne's autumn statement.

Despite pledging to eschew family photoshoots, Mr Balls does give a glimpse into his home life.

"We have a continual debate about whether the presents should arrive in pillow cases or socks," he said. "I think pillow cases. Yvette thinks socks.

"My argument is that, with socks, you get less in."

Asked whether he was limiting his children's gifts to reflect the country's economic hardship, he replied: "It all comes from Father Christmas."

An aide to Mr Balls said the interview had taken place on December 1.

Mr Balls and Mrs Cooper had taken a "consistent approach" to coverage of their family life, he added.

The shadow chancellor was said to be setting out what he thought was right for his own family, rather than attacking the choices others made.