Balls pours cold water on Clegg’s peace move

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Nick Clegg’s efforts to build bridges with Labour ahead of possible coalition negotiations have been dealt a blow after shadow chancellor Ed Balls said that no-one in the party wanted to go into coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

The Deputy Prime Minister indicated in a radio interview earlier this week that he would be ready to take the Lib Dems into coalition with Labour, in what was widely seen as an effort to smooth the way for talks in the event of a hung parliament after next year’s general election.

His comments followed the apparent offer of an olive branch last month from Mr Balls, when he revealed he had had a “very friendly and warm” conversation with the Lib Dem leader and said he had “understood totally” Mr Clegg’s decision to form a government with the Tories in 2010.

But in a new interview with Progress magazine, the shadow chancellor took a decidedly less amenable tone. Although he acknowledged that Labour will have to “deal with the result that the electorate throw up” in the May 2015 poll, Mr Balls added: “None of us want to be in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, partly because it’s hard to know what’s more unpopular at the moment – the Liberal Democrats or the idea of a coalition government.”

Speaking before the broadcast of Mr Clegg’s interview, Mr Balls was scathing about the Lib Dems’ record: “These guys have not restrained the Conservatives; they have in many ways amplified and encouraged the Conservatives in things that they’ve done.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Mr Clegg said he believed Labour was realising it might have to share power after the election. Lib Dems would make it a condition of a coalition with Labour that the new government would not “break the bank”, he said.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband responded dismissively, saying that he was fighting for an outright majority.