Labour leadership: Cuts pledge was a mistake - Ed Balls

Labour leadership hopeful Ed Balls has said he believes it was a "mistake" for Labour to promise to halve the deficit in four years by cutting spending.

Labour leadership profile: Ed Balls

He told the BBC News Channel he "didn't think it could have been done" but had accepted "collective responsibility" when Labour was in government.

Mr Balls has previously said it "made no sense" for Labour not to rule out raising VAT ahead of the election.

He was Gordon Brown's chief economic adviser for his 10 years as chancellor.

Now he is among five candidates to replace Mr Brown as Labour leader - up against David and Ed Miliband, Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott. Party and trade union members, MPs and MEPs will be balloted and the result announced on 25 September.

'Difficult decisions'

In an interview with the BBC News Channel, Mr Balls said: "Halving the deficit in four years by cutting public spending... I think was a mistake.

"In government at the time in 2009 I always accepted collective responsibility, but at the time in 2009 I thought the pace of deficit reduction through spending cuts was not deliverable, I didn't think it could have been done."

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I didn't sit with senior politicians when I was seven, eight and nine in north London parties”

End Quote Ed Balls

But he refused to outline areas of public spending where he would support cuts, although he said he was "unafraid to make difficult decisions" as he had "set out a third of a billion pounds of cuts" when he was schools secretary.

In the interview Mr Balls also said it was "not true" he had briefed against other MPs and had "no time for that sort of nasty politics". He added: "Are there times when I was in my late 20s, 15 years ago, where... we were sort of youthful and exuberant and a bit arrogant? Almost certainly the case, but we all grew up."

He also described himself as "a pragmatist" and "a bit provincial" having grown up in Norwich and Nottingham adding: "I didn't sit with senior politicians when I was seven, eight and nine in north London parties but you know, that's a difference for me. I'm not sure whether it's a strength or whether it's a weakness."

BBC News Channel chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said it appeared to be a criticism of the background of two of his opponents in the Labour race, the Miliband brothers, whose father was an eminent Labour intellectual.

Mr Balls also said the new leader would have to unite the left and right of the Labour Party adding: "I'm going to lead.

"I think I've shown in the last few years, more than the other candidates, I've got the strength and the resilience, the values and the purpose and the judgement to do that and the Labour Party's got to decide in the end, do you want a winner?"

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