Osborne v Balls: Tale of the tape

How the Balls v Osborne row unfolded

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George Osborne's suggestion Ed Balls was linked to the Libor rate fixing scandal sparked a heavyweight ding-dong at Westminster. Here's how the two fighters measure up.

George Osborne Ed Balls

Age: 41

Age: 45

Job: Chancellor of the Exchequer, Conservative Party election strategist

Job: Shadow chancellor

Fighting out of: Tatton, Cheshire

Fighting out of: Morley and Outwood, West Yorkshire

Ringcraft: Don't be fooled by his upper crust pedigree, this former Bullingdon Club bruiser can brawl with the best of them when he has to. Sometimes accused of sneering and condescending tone by critics but there are now few more commanding figures at the despatch box when on form.

Ringcraft: Seen as a street brawler, who is a bit too fond of a scrap at times. Crouches low at the despatch box as he hurls barbs at his Tory opponents. Keen exponent of "sledging" - unsettling coalition ministers sat opposite him with muttered insults, gestures and confidence-sapping asides.

Record: Some Tories privately fear the "playground brawl" with Mr Balls has dented his reputation, but he remains the second most powerful figure in the Tory Party. A keen political tactician, a run-in with Lord Mandelson in 2007 over what was said on an oligarch's yacht was his last big head-to-head - experience which should help him in the current bout.

Record: Failed to win Labour title fight against Ed Miliband, but pundits say might get another shot if he can knock rough edges off public image as one of Gordon Brown's former backroom bruisers. His time at the Treasury continues to provide fodder for opponents but supporters say he has made the right calls over the recession and put coalition on back foot.

What they say: "My opposite number was the City minister for part of this period and Gordon Brown's right hand man for all of it. So he has questions to answer as well. That's Ed Balls, by the way," Spectator interview. "Just get up and say I was a City minister, and I am sorry" to Mr Balls in the Commons on the Thursday, adding he had "never seen the Labour Party and shadow chancellor so rattled".

What they say: "If the Chancellor will not provide the evidence now, he needs to stand up at the Despatch Box now, and withdraw this utterly false allegation... he should put up or shut up... He has impugned my integrity," to Mr Osborne in the Commons last Thursday. He added: "I have to say that the sight of a Chancellor who says one thing to the press but cannot defend himself in Parliament is embarrassing to that office."

What others say: Like a viper, writes Michael Deacon, in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Osborne "ambushes his prey at alarming speed, and is capable of deciding precisely how much venom to inject: enough to immobilise, enough to wound, or enough to kill. It is unknown whether the Chancellor feeds on a diet of small birds and rodents, but studies are continuing."

What others say: "Ed Balls, kicking, biting, eye-gouging for his political life, gave a speech of extraordinary violence in yesterday's Commons debate on the Libor scandal. How Mr Balls bawled. His speech was physically intimidating - his teeth bared, the eyes like those of an attacking pitbull," Quentin Letts in The Daily Mail. "The most annoying person in modern politics," David Cameron.

Will he go the distance? Osborne's aides insist he is not accusing Mr Balls of intervening on the Libor rate, just saying he has "questions to answer". But former chancellor Lord Lamont says Mr Osborne has "overplayed his hand" and other Tories say he should climb down. But with cabinet colleagues like William Hague saying there is no need to apologise, he looks set to tough it out.

Will he go the distance? Appears to be enjoying this scrap too much to back down now. But, his corner men argue, why should he when his integrity is at stake and there is no evidence to back up Mr Osborne's suggestion he was personally linked to rate fixing? Past form suggests he is unlikely to let it drop - and there is still the Parliamentary inquiry into the banking scandal to come.

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