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Focus criticism on Tories - Balls

Labour leadership contender Ed Balls has warned his party that it risked falling into David Cameron's "trap" by focusing its attack on the Liberal Democrats.

The coalition was "fundamentally a Conservative government" and Tories should not be let "off the hook", the shadow education secretary said.

Mr Balls described the Lib Dems as merely "cannon fodder shielding Mr Cameron". He said Labour membership was now up by more than 25,000 and Nick Clegg's party had "collapsed in the polls".

In a rallying call, Mr Balls urged Labour supporters not to give up the "radical centre ground of British politics".

He said: "There is no doubt that Mr Cameron wants to use his alliance with the Liberal Democrats to achieve what he failed in opposition - to detoxify the Conservative brand in the public mind. At its heart, this will remain a neo-liberal government of the Right, but Mr Cameron will seek to present the coalition as dominating the centre ground, while caricaturing Labour as irrelevant, reactionary and retreating to the left."

In a warning to fellow leadership contenders Ed Miliband, Diane Abbott, Andy Burnham and David Miliband, he said: "That's why all of us as leadership candidates, as we seek the votes of Labour and trade union members and the praise of left-wing think-tanks and newspapers, must beware of departing from the centre ground, by making unwise promises or losing touch with our constituents on issues such as crime."

But Mr Balls said there were risks in the other direction too and urged the party not to "hanker after the approval of the right-wing press and conservative business groups". He added: "We've ridden that tiger before and it didn't get us very far."

The Lib Dems had "sold their principles for power", he said, adding: "While we must win back voters lost to the Lib Dems, we must not let the Tories off the hook. Even if Lib Dem ministers are wheeled out by Downing Street to defend the most unpopular decisions, we must not forget this is fundamentally a Conservative government."

"The reason why the fiasco over school building cuts and the rushed Academies Bill is so damaging for the Government is that a senior Tory is in the frame.

"So Labour must focus its fire on the Tories, not just on the Liberal cannon fodder shielding Mr Cameron."


From Belfast Telegraph