Ed Balls 'completely staggered' by David Cameron's taunt

 

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said today he was “completely staggered” when David Cameron branded him a “muttering idiot” during an angry outburst in the Commons.

He claimed the Prime Minister's instinct was to "lash out" but suggested it would be better if he "calmed down" and examined where he was going wrong.

The insult came after Mr Balls repeatedly taunted the Conservative leader during prime minister's questions yesterday, reportedly telling him to "chillax, and have another glass of wine" - a reference to a recently published book which claims Mr Cameron unwinds from the stresses of his job by drinking three or four glasses of wine with Sunday lunch.

Mr Balls told Sky News: "To be fair to me, I have not been muttering for the last 18 months, I've been shouting from the rooftops the Cameron Osborne plan would fail."

He added: "If I'm honest with you I was completely staggered. It was 12.27pm and suddenly he lashes out like that. I was completely taken aback.

"But, you know, the guy is obviously worried about the economy and worried about his reputation and doesn't know what to do and his instinct is to lash out."

He added "Actually, it would be better if he calmed down and thought to himself 'what did I get wrong, what can I do about it?'

The Prime Minister was answering a question on the Government's economic record when he lashed out.

He said: "What we need to do both in Britain and Europe is to combine deficit reduction, which has given us the low interest rates, with an active monetary policy, with structural reforms to make us competitive, and with innovative ways of using our hard-won credibility, which we wouldn't have if we listened to the muttering idiot sitting opposite me."

Speaker John Bercow told Mr Cameron to withdraw the word idiot as it was "unparliamentary". The Prime Minister replied that he would replace it with the words "the man who left us with this enormous deficit and this financial crisis".

His outburst prompted cries of "Flashman" - a reference to the bully in Tom Brown's Schooldays - from the Labour benches.

The taunt is a favourite among Labour MPs, who think Mr Cameron is at his weakest during Prime Minister's Questions when he is visibly riled and angry.

Mr Cameron was defended by Education Secretary Michael Gove, who said he found his put-down of Mr Balls "quite funny".

"The whole point about Prime Minister's question time, one of the reasons it is popular, is there is room for badinage," he told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.

"Anyone who cares in public life is going to express frustration sometimes because they want to change things. What you saw from the PM was a sign of the passion and the energy that he feels to get things moving."

He dismissed suggestions Mr Cameron was a Flashman-style bully.

"Anyone who has worked with the Prime Minister knows that he is as far from being a bully as you can imagine," he said.

"He is remarkably focused and hard-working and clear and self-possessed."

PA

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