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UK Politics

Boulton and Campbell in live TV clash

He may have been a guest at his wedding but that didn't stop Sky News' political editor Adam Boulton from launching a very public tirade against former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell this afternoon.

The two political heavyweights looked close to ditching words altogether in favour of fists as they argued over Gordon Brown's resignation statement live on air.

Fellow Sky anchor Jeremy Thompson frantically tried to calm tensions as Mr Boulton pointed at his interviewee and began shouting, "I'm fed up with you telling me what I think." As the pair puffed up their chests and squared up to each other, Mr Campbell replied: "I don't care what you're fed up with. You can say what you like, I can tell you my opinion."

It was all a long way from the kind of bonhomie shown four years ago when a Who's Who of the Labour party packed into St James' Church on Piccadilly to attend the marriage of Mr Boulton to Tony Blair's former "gate keeper" Anji Hunter. But then those were very different times.

Back in 2006 Rupert Murdoch was a staunch supporter of New Labour. Now the media tycoon's biggest selling British newspaper, The Sun, has abandoned its support for labour and runs front page stories calling Mr Brown a "squatter".

Today's confrontation between two former friends was sparked after Mr Boulton, Sky's political editor since the channel was launched in 1989, asked Tony Blair's former spin chief about the prime minister's statement earlier in the afternoon that he would resign as party leader.

The cordial atmosphere quickly went downhill three minutes into the debate outside the Houses of Parliament after Mr Campbell suggested that his old friend was "obviously upset that David Cameron is not prime minister."

Sky's political editor quickly squared up to his interviewee shouting: "Don't keep casting aspersions on me."

Not even Mr Campbell's calls for "dignity", nor a gentle reminder to his old friends that they were "live on air", calmed tensions. Only when Mr Thompson suggested that their debate could "carry on later" and cued up a swift picture change were the two combatants finally drowned out.

Within minutes Twitter went into overdrive as political watchers tweeted their amusement of two such powerful political figures losing it live on air. Within half an hour "Adam Boutlon" had risen to number four on Twitter's top ten most popular search terms.

Sally Bercow, wife of speak John Bercow, couldn't resist chipping in with suggesting that Mr Boulton "needed a teething biscuit."

Mr Campbell, meanwhile, clearly decided he was in no mood for reconciliation. "Really worried about Adam Boulton," he tweeted less than an hour later. "Wonder if he might need some of my pills. Anji ought to come home from her foreign trip."

Mr Boulton's bust up is the second time a Sky News anchor has seen red in as many days. On Sunday Sky News presenter Kay Burley invoked the wrath of protestors when she grilled a spokesperson from a pro-electoral reform collation with the remarks: "'Why don't you just go home? Why don't you go home and watch it on Sky News?"

Her aggressive style of questioning was quickly picked up those protesting in front of Sky's cameras who began chanting live on air: "Sack Kay Burley. Sky News is shit. Watch the BBC."