Protesters try to handcuff minister

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Protesters threw an egg at the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly and attempted to handcuff her during an election campaign debate, police said today.

Protesters threw an egg at the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly and attempted to handcuff her during an election campaign debate, police said today.

It is believed the men were protesters from campaign group Fathers4Justice.

The minister had been due to start a question-and-answer session with rival political candidates from her Bolton West constituency last night when she was grabbed by two men.

The incident happened shortly before 7.40pm during a pre-election talk at the St John's Methodist Church Hall in Victoria Road, Bolton, Greater Manchester.

The men grabbed the minister's wrist as she walked through the crowd, before members of the audience wrestled her free.

A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said: "The men are believed to have approached the minister and attempted to handcuff her before members of the audience intervened.

"A missile, believed to be an egg, was thrown during the disturbance. The missile struck a man on the back. No one was hurt in the incident. The offenders then ran off on to Victoria Road in the direction of Chorley Old Road."

Police said no arrests have been made and inquiries are continuing.

The minister at St John's Methodist Church, the Rev. John Howard-Norman, 47, was leading the four political candidates into the room when the incident occurred.

He said: "The candidates were getting up on to the stage and as Ruth Kelly was about to mount the platform, two men jumped on her and attempted to place a pair of handcuffs on her.

"There was a melee and members of the audience got involved and struggled with this individual."

Mike Ford, a candidate for Robert Kilroy-Silk's party Veritas, restrained one of the men, who was thought to be in his 50s.

Mr Howard-Norman said: "The second individual lobbed a number of what we now know to have been eggs. They were covered in purple paint.

"Ruth Kelly was obviously shaken by the experience. She sat down quietly for a few minutes and then we carried on with the debate."

Despite appeals by Mr Howard-Norman that police attend the meeting, no officers were at the church before the incident took place.

Police did attend after receiving reports of the protest and were there in around 10 minutes.

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