Balls: Osborne 'cynically' using Philpott in benefits row

The shadow chancellor Ed Balls has condemned the "nasty and divisive" comments by George Osborne in which he questions why taxpayers' money was being used to "subsidise lifestyles" like Mick Philpott:

I believe George Osborne's calculated decision to use the shocking and vile crimes of Mick Philpott to advance a political argument is the cynical act of a desperate Chancellor.

Our main thought at this time should be about the six children who tragically lost their lives, and the others in the family who have been left to mourn their loss.

We should have a proper debate about welfare reform.

And we should discuss what action needs to be taken to tackle the scourge of long-term unemployment including the need for a compulsory jobs guarantee so that people cannot languish on the dole for years and years on end.

But for the Chancellor to link this wider debate to this shocking crime is nasty and divisive and demeans his office.

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PM backs Osborne on Philpott

The Prime Minister has said the Chancellor's remarks about Mick Philpott, convicted of killing his six children and the need for welfare reform "were absolutely right".