Ed Balls unveiled an aggressive cuts strategy today – as he left an opponent bloodied in the annual football match between Labour and Lobby journalists.
The shadow chancellor was involved in a nasty clash with Northern Echo hack Rob Merrick (picture above: Reuters) as the politicians struggled to overturn a goal deficit at Manchester City's Etihad complex.
The pair were contesting a 50-50 ball on the edge of the Lobby penalty area when a stray elbow from Balls left a slash under the reporter's right eye. Merrick had to leave the pitch for medical treatment as blood covered his shirt – but later returned to be named man-of-the-match.
The Labour team – which featured a host of frontbench stalwarts including Andy Burnham, Jim Murphy and Sadiq Khan – eventually suffered the pain of a 3-1 defeat.
Graeme Demianyk of the Western Morning News opened the scoring by bundling home from close range, before the Financial Times's George Parker doubled the advantage.
But a strike from political aide Dave Hodges sparked a shaky spell from the Lobby, and it took a goal from Matt Dathan of The Times to settle the issue.
It is the second year running the Labour team has been defeated in the conference showdown, which is supported by the Football Association and helps raise funds for charity.
After the match Balls, known as a political bruiser, said he hoped Merrick had not sustained any lasting damage.
"I was about to score a brilliant goal in the top right hand corner," he said. "As I steadied myself to shoot Rob came piling in from behind attempting to nick the ball and came off worst."
Balls's wife, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, joked that coverage of the incident in the media "does rather undermine my determination to be tough on anti-social behaviour".
She told a Labour List conference rally: "Some of you may have seen the photographs of Ed and his encounter on a football match earlier.
"When he came back he said, 'well, there was a bit of an incident – a journalist ran into my arm. Well, all right, so he ran into my elbow … with his eye'."
She told the audience: "So when you see the photographs of all the blood and the grimaces – unfortunately let's just say that when they're on the front pages tomorrow, it does rather undermine my determination to be tough on anti-social behaviour."
According to Mail Online (pictured above) Graeme Demianyk, the Western Morning News’s political correspondent, was also forced off the pitch after being injured in a separate clash with Balls.
Demianyk, who suffered a dead leg in the incident, was quoted in the Mail Online saying: "The shadow chancellor is an uncompromising opponent. When running towards you at full pace, it feels a bit like you’re in the path of that out-of-control boulder in Indiana Jones."