Balls ‘gets’ Clegg’s deficit reduction logic

Ed Balls has said he understands why Nick Clegg accepted the Conservatives' accelerated deficit reduction programme in 2010.

The shadow chancellor raised eyebrows in Westminster with an interview in which he was at pains to make overtures to the deputy prime minister.

"I understand totally why Nick Clegg made the decision that he made to go into coalition with the Conservatives at the time," he told the New Statesman.

"I may not have liked it at the time, but I understood it. I also understood totally his decision to support a credible deficit reduction plan, because it was necessary in 2010."

Balls was in Gordon Brown's coalition negotiating team which lost out to David Cameron's in the post-election talks.

With a hung parliament still looking the most likely result of the next general election, the shadow chancellor could be paving the way for improved relations with his future potential colleague.

"I think the decision to accelerate deficit reduction, compared to the plans they inherited, which was clearly not what Vince Cable wanted, I think that was a mistake," Balls added.

"I don't know whether that's something that, in the end, the Liberal Democrats will acknowledge."

He said that he had not exchanged a cross word with Clegg in the last 18 months, in a major reversal of his past insistence that he could not work with the Lib Dem leader.

"Very many Labour party members, voters, supporters, would find that very difficult and some Liberal Democrat voters would find that very difficult as well, but we’ll deal with the situation as we find it," Balls said.

"I saw that subsequently he made a further statement to one of the newspapers that these things weren't about personalities, and I think he's right about that."

Balls may be referring to Clegg's comments that he tries to "keep a good sense of humour" regardless.

The deputy prime minister added: "I make one exception, for a man named Ed Balls. But other than that I try not to make it about insults and stuff."