Five-star hacks too good at football for Labour

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Indy Politics

Labour suffered an early setback as its conference got under way today - losing the traditional football match against Lobby journalists.

A commanding performance from the fourth estate saw the party's team, which included Cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Andy Burnham, go down 5-1.

The heavy defeat came shortly after Chancellor Alistair Darling compared Labour to a football side that appeared to have given up before the final whistle.

But on the pitch, the politicians struggled valiantly, albeit vainly, until the end.

The game, which took place at Brighton & Hove Albion's ground, was finely balanced early on, with the Lobby struggling to make the most of plentiful possession.

The deadlock was finally broken by star striker Ramzi Bedj-Bedj, who rounded a bevy of defenders and the keeper before tapping in.

However, Labour hit back in quick order through Burnham, whose shot was helped home by a fortunate deflection.

It was not until after the break that the journalists' superior fitness began to tell. Bedj-Bedj tormented a defence that included former work and pensions secretary James Purnell, retaining his place despite resigning from the government earlier this year in protest at Gordon Brown's leadership.

The Lobby's reward arrived when their man-of-the-match, Daily Telegraph political editor Andrew Porter, unleashed a dipping shot that just evaded the keeper's fingers.

Labour resisted mounting pressure and managed to stay within touching distance until the last quarter of an hour, when three goals in quick succession - the pick of which came from the Yorkshire Post's Jonathan Reed - put the journalists out of sight.