Gordon Brown "trimmed and fudged" his political message in an attempt to keep powerful newspapers onside, Labour leadership contender Ed Balls said today.
The shadow education secretary - long seen as Mr Brown's closest political ally - said that he repeatedly told his former mentor he was wrong on key issues.
His comments mark his clearest attempt yet to distance himself from Mr Brown's legacy as the leadership campaign enters its final stages.
"I could have chosen to have broken away in an emphatic and decisive way from Gordon in the last few years, and I didn't," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"I disagreed strongly with Gordon on the 10p tax rate cut, I thought we should have gone for the election in 2007, I felt that he trimmed and fudged his message to try to keep the Daily Mail happy in a way which meant that people didn't know where we stood. I said that to him many times.
"If you fudge your message and kow-tow to the extent that the Labour voter doesn't know where you stand, you pay a price."
Mr Balls also denied suggestions that he was too "tribal" a Labour politician to be able to work with the Liberal Democrats in the event of another hung parliament after the next general election.
"I am not tribal, but I will set out a different view and if that means working with the Liberal Democrats, so be it," he said.