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Home >> World
UPDATED: 10:05, September 30, 2005
Blair apologizes to delegate, 82
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British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized to an 82-year-old delegate during interviews on several television and radio broadcasts Thursday morning, after he was forcibly ejected from its conference for heckling Jack Straw, British Foreign Secretary.

Walter Wolfgang, who has been a party member for 57 years, had shouted "nonsense" to Straw as he defended the war in Iraq.

"People are perfectly entitled to freedom of speech in our country and we should celebrate that fact and I'm really sorry about what happened to Walter and I've apologized to him," Blair told BBC television.

"It's just an unfortunate thing that happened. The Labour Party has apologized. The chairman of the Labour Party and I have apologized to him."

Moments later the pensioner was bundled out of the conference arena by security guards, who also turned on another delegate who had protested at the treatment of Wolfgang.

Police used powers under the Terrorism Act to stop the second delegate getting back into the conference venue. After embarrassing television pictures showing the dual eviction were broadcast, the Labour Party admitted that the way that Wolfgang had been treated was "inappropriate" and that it would be apologizing to him.

A party spokesman said: "The events leading up to the incident will be examined by the party."

Wolfgang is a member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London. He escaped Nazi Germany in 1937, is a former vice-chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and is a member of the Stop the War Coalition.

He shouted "nonsense" when Straw said that Britain's intervention in Kosovo had been to protect Muslims. When Straw said that Britain was in Iraq solely to build a democratic state and remained only with Iraqi consent, Wolfgang shouted: "That's a lie."

Wolfgang, said afterwards: "They were trying to pull me out. I refused to let them."

Some delegates sitting near him cried "Shame" and "Leave him alone" as he was pulled, protesting, from his seat.

Another delegate, Steve Forrest, chairman of Erith Thamesmead Labour party, who protested at his treatment, was bundled out more forcefully after telling stewards: "You must be joking."

Alice Mahon, the former MP for Halifax and a prominent anti-war campaigner, said she saw several security guards "dive" on Wolfgang. She said: "I think the security people were really over the top."

Source: China Daily


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