Ed Balls has indicated he would be willing to work with Nick Clegg in a coalition, should Labour and the Lib Dems be in a position to form a government after 2015.
In an interview with the New Statesman published today, the shadow chancellor said of Clegg he had "no reason to doubt his integrity" and that he had "no reason to say anything nasty about him as a person".
Asked whether he would be willing to serve in government with the Lib Dem leader, Balls said "what you always have to do is deal with politics as you find it" and that deals between parties "weren’t about personalities".
The warm words are a change of tune from 2012, when Balls said Clegg's decision to enter a coalition with David Cameron made it "very difficult" for Labour to work with him. And Clegg recently revealed Balls was the one politician he had a personal feud with.
It has been widely assumed that Labour would refuse to work with Clegg and force the Lib Dems to replace him as leader as the price of any coalition - just as Clegg had of Labour and Gordon Brown in 2010.
However Balls' conciliatory gestures today suggest that may not be the case. “I understand totally why Nick Clegg made the decision that he made to go into coalition with the Conservatives at the time," he said.
"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."
"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 . . . I can disagree with Nick Clegg on some of the things he did but I’ve no reason to doubt his integrity.”
In a recent interview with The Huffington Post UK, Michael Moore, the former Scotland secretary, also dismissed the idea Clegg and Ed Miliband would not be able to work together due to personality clashes.
"As all the parties demonstrated in the aftermath of the last general election, if the electorate deals a hand that says none of you has a majority, you have to make things work in the national interest," he said.Suggest a correction