Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have flatly denied claims they wanted to hold an early general election in 2007 because they knew the economy was about to “fall off a cliff”.
The allegation is made in a new book by former mayor of Doncaster Martin Winter, who helped the Labour leader secure his Commons seat.
Mr Winter left the Labour Party in 2008 following internal arguments over whether he could stand for a third term.
According to extracts in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Miliband is said to have confided in Mr Winter and his partner Carolyne Hunter two weeks after Gordon Brown abandoned plans for a snap poll.
He reportedly told them: “Ed Balls was desperate for us to go now ... The simple fact is the economy is going to fall off a cliff and this was our best chance of winning.
“The economy is going to get a hell of a lot worse over the next two or three years and we’ll get the blame for it; so it was either going now and risk losing or wait and know that we’re going to lose.”
Mr Brown ruled out an election in October 2007. The scale of the economic crisis engulfing Britain became clear the following year.
A spokesman for Mr Miliband dismissed the claim. “This report is untrue,” he said.
“It is tittle-tattle, a third-hand report of a conversation more than seven years ago. Complete nonsense.
“No-one had any sense of the scale of the global banking crisis which emerged in 2008.”
A spokesman for Mr Balls said: “Everyone knows Ed Balls wanted an early Election in 2007, but the economy was nothing to do with it.”
But Chancellor George Osborne told the newspaper: “The political cynicism and opportunism of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband has been exposed.
“This first-hand account shows Balls and Miliband were more interested in saving their own skins than saving the British economy.’
The book also describes a nine-and-a-half-week period when Mr Miliband stayed with the couple and their children while trying to become the Labour candidate for Doncaster in 2005.
Mr Winter, who said he is speaking out because he has lost faith in Mr Miliband, said he was “patronising” to the children, accidentally set fire to an office, and locked himself in a house by mistake.
Giving his assessment of the Labour leader - who was an aide to Mr Brown at the time - Mr Winter said: “He is arrogant, untrustworthy and procrastinates over everything.
“He is ignorant of the real values of ordinary working-class voters and holds his nose at their lifestyle.”
The report claims that for nine and half weeks between March and May 2005, when the Winter family took the young Miliband into their home and orchestrated his election as MP for Doncaster North, the future leader almost set himself alight, bought a prayer mat to cover scorch marks to his office carpet and was out-negotiated by the Winters’ three young children.
Mr Winter is quoted as saying: “People are entitled to know the truth about a man who wants to be Prime Minister.”
Winter, 52, was feted by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown after he rescued the last Labour Government’s flagship scheme to introduce US-style directly elected mayors.
Blair believed they would root out town hall corruption – and nowhere was it worse than Labour-run Doncaster.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, more than 20 councillors were convicted of fraud and half a dozen were jailed in the ‘Donnygate’ scandal, one of the widest-reaching incidents of town hall corruption in British history.