Labour aides believe war was a mistake

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More than two-thirds of local Labour parties in constituencies with a Labour MP fear the war on Iraq was a mistake - and one in four thinks the Government lied to them about its reasons for attacking Saddam Hussein.

A survey by The Independent on Sunday of senior constituency party officials reveals deep misgivings about military action in the wake of the Hutton inquiry.

Tony Blair is preparing for a rough ride at the party's annual conference in Bournemouth later this month. At the TUC conference in Brighton last week, some trade unionists questioned his veracity and his leadership, and also called for him to resign.

Even in the Ashfield constituency of Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Defence, opinion is divided. A party official said members remained "supportive", but that "he perhaps should have asked more questions" about the evidence given as the basis for war.

The official said few people had changed their minds about the need for war but, for those who opposed it, "it must be harder to make the case now than it was before".

In Blackburn, where the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, is the MP, there is a similar split. The constituency secretary, Phil Riley, said: "People who opposed war in the first place now believe they have got more justification for the reasons they were opposed. Those that supported it continue to support it."

But elsewhere, 22 per cent of the 92 Labour constituencies that responded to the IoS survey said they supported the war, with 53 per cent against, 18 per cent split and 7 per cent not wishing to comment.

Seventy per cent reported concerns about the justification given for military action with 18 per cent saying there were no such worries, 7 per cent saying opinion was divided and 5 per cent refusing to comment. Thirty-seven per cent of the constituencies thought they had been told the truth about the reasons Britain went to war, 23 per cent said they had not, 13 per cent said opinions were split and 27 per cent declined to comment.

While there remains support for the Prime Minister over the war among the grass roots, many are angry. When Peter Davies, chair of the Burton constituency party, was asked whether the Government told the truth about Iraq, he replied: "Categorically not."

Research by Steve Bloomfield, Tom Brooke-Taylor, Sarah Weaver, Kate Drummond and Nadia Iqbal

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