Labour accused of dirty tactics to keep Wolfgang out of its ruling body

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Left-wing Labour MPs have cried foul over a last-minute campaign to stop Walter Wolfgang being voted on to Labour's ruling national executive committee (NEC).

Official complaints have been made to the party leadership over the tactics used to block the "awkward squad" led by Mr Wolfgang, a veteran CND supporter who was thrown out of Labour's annual conference last year for heckling Jack Straw, then Foreign Secretary, over the war on Iraq.

As the deadline for filling in the ballot forms closed, left-wingers claimed party officials were desperately trying to gain more support for a slate of candidates, including a former Labour MP, who are preferred by the leadership.

Mr Wolfgang is campaigning on the centre-left grass-roots alliance slate of candidates. His leaflet says he is opposed to a new generation of British nuclear weapons and is calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He is certain to clash with Tony Blair on both issues if he wins a seat when the results are announced on Friday.

One ally of Mr Wolfgang said: "The leadership is running scared of Walter winning. They have tried all the tricks in the book to stop him. But they are so desperate it suggests he could win a seat."

Some left-wingers said they had made formal complaints to the general secretary, Peter Watt, against regional officials for allegedly breaching party rules by engaging in canvassing for a so-called "Millbank slate" of candidates supported by the leadership.

Left-wingers claim recorded messages were sent out by telephone to Labour Party members in Enfield and Southgate by supporters of Lorna Fitzsimmons, a former Labour MP and one of "Blair's babes", who is also standing for the NEC in the constituency section ballot against Mr Wolfgang and his allies.

"I know of people in Enfield who were rung up and it was a message from Lorna Fitzsimmons on autodial. I would like to know how her campaign got hold of the telephone numbers of members," said one leading left-wing figure.

"In Bournemouth, somebody rang up a member and said these are the people the regional office want," said the source.

"Regional organisers are supposed to remain neutral, and not get involved in the NEC elections.

"We have a couple of days to register complaints which I have done, but every time you complain they say they were working as individuals, not party officials."