MPs no match for tenacious hacks

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Hacks. .4

MPs. .2

ALISTAIR BURT, the under-secretary of state for social security, yesterday gave me the slip, like Ryan Giggs.

He ran as if pursued by angry fathers protesting about the Child Support Agency, passed the ball to Geoff Hoon and the Labour MP for Ashfield scored the equaliser.

Geoff Hurst would have been proud. This was the end of Wembley Stadium at which Hurst scored his final goal in England's world cup victory over West Germany in 1966. England and Germany should have been playing again yesterday but their game was called off because it coincided with the anniversary of Hitler's birthday and there were fears of riots.

Fourteen MPs carried on regardless with their match on the hallowed turf against a team of journalists from the Commons press gallery.

The MPs' team normally plays in the silence of Battersea park, but they trotted out of the tunnel to the thunderous sound of 80,000 cheering fans. It was a recording put on for visitors, but it put a chill down every spine.

The lads could not resist a wave at the empty seats as they took the field, which was as smooth as a bowling green.

They were treading on the ghosts of football's heroes: George Galloway, the Labour MP for Glasgow Hillhead, raced down the right wing where Stanley Matthews dazzled in 1953; Anthony Coombs, the Tory MP for Wyre Forest, tried 40-yard passes like Hoddle; Alan Simpson, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, scored from the penalty spot where the Argentine Ricky Villa rumba'd through tackles to score for Tottenham; and Henry McLeish, the Labour MP for Fife Central, was hurt where Gazza did his knee.

At the whistle, the electronic scoreboard said Hacks 4 MPs 2, the same as when England beat West Germany. The voice of Kenneth Wolst enholme was in our minds as we trooped off. 'They think it's all over . . . It is now.'

Hacks: Goodhart (FT), Hennessy (D Express), McMahon (S Mirror), Brown (Independent), Bradshaw (D Mirror), Parker (Western Morning News), Leathley (Times), Owen (FT), Wintour (Guardian), Walters (Sun), Webster (Times). Substitutes: Prynn (Times), Bailey (BBC), Davies (Liverpool Echo).

MPs: Bryan Davies, John McAllion, Mike Watson, David Hanson, Henry McLeish, Alan Simpson, Peter Hain, Anthony Coombs, Geoff Hoon, Alistair Burt, Clive Betts. Substitutes: George Galloway, Nick Hawkins, and Eric Illsley.