Political bruiser Ed Balls draws blood in encounter with regional lobby reporter

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls - Credit: PA

Ed Balls has admitted a tackle which left an an opponent with a cut eye during the annual football match between Labour and journalists looked 'awful'.

The shadow chancellor also said he had been rebuked by his wife and fellow frontbencher Yvette Cooper over the clash - but insisted it was 'entirely accidental'.

The incident came as the Labour team were en route to a heavy 3-1 defeat against the Lobby team.

Northern Echo correspondent Rob Merrick had to leave the field for medical treatment as blood covered his shirt - although he later returned to win the man-of-the-match award.

In a round of broadcast interviews at the Labour Party conference in Manchester this morning, Mr Balls told BBC Breakfast: 'I think Rob was actually tackling me at the time, but it looks awful.

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'I'm really sorry about it and I've said to Rob I'm really sorry. But he knows it was entirely accidental.

'The game went on for a few minutes because nobody saw that it had happened. I'm really glad that he's feeling better, there's no hard feelings between us.

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'This morning when I looked at those pictures, Yvette said to me 'what were you up to?''

On Sky News he stressed that although the images were 'obviously hideous' there had been no 'malice'.

He added that the referee had given a drop ball rather than awarding a foul - although he conceded the official 'might have been a Labour councillor'.

During a fringe event last night shadow home secretary Ms Cooper joked that Mr Balls' clash was not helping her drive to be tough on anti-social behaviour.

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