Wolfgang accuses Beckett of 'skating over' Iraq war

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Indy Politics

Walter Wolfgang has accused the Labour leadership of stage-managing the debate on Afghanistan and Iraq to avoid dissent destroying the illusion of party unity.

Mr Wolfgang, 83, who was ejected from the Labour conference last year for heckling Jack Straw, the then Foreign Secretary, confessed he found it difficult not to engage in more barracking as he listened to Mr Straw's successor, Margaret Beckett, and the Defence Secretary, Des Browne.

He accused Ms Beckett of "skating over" the difficult issues and said Mr Browne was "living in a fantasy world" in which Britain and the US were pursuing achievable goals in Iraq.

"The party is not united on these issues but the majority want us out of Iraq,"he said. Mr Wolfgang, who has a seat on the Labour Party's National Executive, will sit down today with Tony Blair and party leaders at the conference.

"If I get the chance, I will tell Mr Blair he should go," he said. "It's worsened in Iraq and a lot of Lebanese and Israeli lives could have been saved by complying with the UN secretary general's request for a ceasefire."

Mr Wolfgang noted that the only dissent at the conference had come from Tony Woodley, the leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, who protested at the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon system.

Kate Hudson, the chairwoman of CND, said it was "extraordinary" that there had been no debate on Trident as it had been the last chance for a national Labour conference to discuss it.

Mr Browne told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "My view is that we should have a debate about Trident. We will gather together information and present it in the form of a Government paper.

"We will have a debate in Parliament and we will have a vote in Parliament."