Blair apologises to ejected conference heckler

 

British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologised today to the 82-year-old activist expelled from Labour's conference for heckling Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over the Iraq war.

Mr Blair was forced to field a series of questions about Walter Wolfgang's treatment during a round of early morning broadcast interviews.

Security remove 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang after he heckled Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Security remove 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang after he heckled Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

Mr Blair today said Mr Wolfgang has his "full apologies". Speaking on Sky News, he said: "We are really, really sorry. It shouldn't have happened. I wasn't in the conference centre myself at the time."

The final day of the conference - media coverage of which has been dominated by speculation over how long Mr Blair will stay in his job - will hear a rallying call for unity from Defence Secretary John Reid.

Following debates on reconnecting voters with politics and creating sustainable communities, Mr Reid will close the conference with a speech that will emphasise the importance of the party maintaining discipline and a sense of common purpose.

But yesterday's events were overshadowed by the treatment of Mr Wolfgang.

A second man, constituency party chairman Steve Forrest from south-east London, was also thrown out of the conference after complaining at Mr Wolfgang's treatment at the hands of stewards.

Mr Wolfgang, from Richmond, south west London, said he was approached by stewards after shouting "nonsense" as Mr Straw attempted to justify the Government's refusal to withdraw British troops from Iraq.

The Labour Party later conceded that the way Mr Wolfgang was treated was "inappropriate", and said it would be apologising to him.

A veteran peace campaigner, Mr Wolfgang, who fled Nazi Germany as a Jewish refugee to make Britain his home, said: "I shouted out 'nonsense'. That's all I said. Then these two toughies came round and wanted to manhandle me out.

"I said 'Do you want me to leave? I will leave, you don't need to manhandle me'. Physically, I am not too well, so I said I would follow them.

Mr Wolfgang, a Labour Party member for 57 years, added: "It makes me feel that the people who resort to these tactics are very unsure of themselves and they are on the losing side."