UK Politics

Ed Balls a bully who can't take it, says David Cameron

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Media captionEd Miliband: "Have you wrecked a restaurant recently?"

Prime Minister David Cameron has accused shadow chancellor Ed Balls of being a Commons "bully... who can dish it out but can't take it".

The attack on Mr Balls came as he heckled the PM during question time.

Mr Balls complained about being heckled himself by Conservatives when replying to last week's Autumn Statement.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he had "heard everything" when Mr Cameron, "the boy from the Bullingdon Club", made allegations of bullying.

Mr Balls has frequently clashed with Mr Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions. On one occasion the prime minister called the shadow chancellor the "most annoying" man in politics for shouting at him across the chamber.

'Smashed any restaurants?'

During last week's discussion of the Autumn Statement on the economy, Mr Balls gave a hesitant performance, later explaining that this had been caused by his stammer.

He said this was exacerbated "when I have the prime minister and the chancellor and 300 Conservative MPs yelling at me at the tops of their voices".

But, during Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron halted during one of his answers and turned to Mr Balls, saying: "I'm surprised the shadow chancellor is shouting again, because we learned last week, like bullies all over the world, he can dish it out but he can't take it. He never learns."

Mr Miliband defended his Labour colleague and mocked the prime minister for his membership of the allegedly uproarious Bullingdon Club while a student at Oxford University.

He said: "I've heard everything when the boy from the Bullingdon Club lectures people on bullying. Absolutely extraordinary. Have you wrecked a restaurant recently?"

Benefits cap

During heated exchanges in the 30 minute session, the party leaders debated the effect of the coalition's policies on people's earnings.

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Media captionDavid Cameron and Ed Miliband clashed over the planned benefits cap

Mr Miliband said there was a "fundamental" injustice in the cutting of the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45%, arguing that Conservatives "look after their friends".

The prime minister replied that Labour wanted "more benefits paid for with more borrowing".

Mr Cameron highlighted the fall in unemployment but said long-term unemployment remained "stubbornly high" and despite a fall of 82,000 overall there was "no room for complacency".

During last week's Autumn Statement, the government said it would restrict increases of some benefits to 1% over the next three years.

Mr Miliband picked up on that plan, attacking the government for implying that those affected by the move were "scroungers".

'Poisonous'

"Despite the impression given by the chancellor of the exchequer, over 60% of those affected are in work," Mr Miliband said.

"It's the factory worker on the night shift, it's the carer who looks after elderly people around the clock and it's the cleaner who cleans the chancellor's office while his curtains are still drawn and he's still in bed."

Labour announced on Tuesday that it would vote against what it says is a benefits cut in real term because inflation will be above 1%.

But Mr Cameron told MPs: "Welfare needs to be controlled. Everyone who is on tax credits will be affected by these changes because we have to get on top of the welfare bill."

The prime minister added that low earners would see their income tax bill cut under coalition government plans.

Business Minister David Willetts told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "I think you have to look at the wider issue of fairness, and the fact is that over the past few years the real value of benefits has gone up relative to what has happened to earnings.

"What we are trying to do, and I think this is fair, is saying in tough times if you're on benefits we can't afford a full up-rating, but equally people in work have not seen their wages rise."

Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle replied: "If you want to be fair you must not have vicious, poisonous, nasty little caricatures that actually mislead people about the nature of those who are being hit."

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