Labour conference to hear anti-war pleas

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Labour critics of Tony Blair plan to demand the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq at the party's annual conference in Brighton in a fortnight.

Labour critics of Tony Blair plan to demand the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq at the party's annual conference in Brighton in a fortnight.

Activists have tabled a raft of hostile motions in an attempt to scupper Mr Blair's hopes that the party will rally behind him ahead of the general election expected next May. Rebels will also try to trigger a formal leadership challenge to Mr Blair, but this is expected to be quashed by party managers.

Several local parties have submitted "contemporary motions" that strike at the heart of the Prime Minister's strategy. One questions what it says was the changing justification for the invasion, first the alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, then the restoration of democracy and human rights.

The motion urges the conference to call on the Government "to dissociate the United Kingdom from the occupation by withdrawing British forces from Iraq". It has been backed by a coalition of groups including Labour Against the War, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy and the Campaign Group of Labour MPs.

Another motion describes Iraq as "Blair's poll tax" and warns that Labour could lose the next general election in a "reverse landslide". It says that "given the Prime Minister's dogged unwillingness to change course, conference considers that a change of leadership is the only option". Party officials are expected to rule that a contest can only be called by 20 per cent of Labour MPs.

Blair aides hope that trade unions will not join the members' rebellion following Mr Blair's pledge at the TUC conference on Monday to honour a deal to boost workplace rights. However, the unions may cause trouble over pensions by demanding compulsory contributions by employers and employees to company schemes, and voting for the renationalisation of the railways.

Left-wingers will demand that Mr Blair drops the pledge not to increase income tax rates from the election manifesto. A motion calls for a redistribution of wealth and income, saying: "The calls for a radical third term cannot be realised without reversing existing taxation policy."

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