Britain Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized Thursday to an 82-year-old activist ejected from the governing Labour Party's conference for heckling a Cabinet minister over the Iraq war an issue that overshadowed the end of the annual convention.
The treatment of Walter Wolfgang, who was then questioned by police under anti-terrorism powers, angered delegates and sparked accusations that the government is abusing freedom of speech.
"We are really, really sorry. It shouldn't have happened," said Blair, grilled on a round of television and radio interviews Thursday about the incident. He blamed overzealous volunteer stewards who have no training.
The apology was repeated by Defense Secretary John Reid, who began his close of conference address with a personal message to Wolfgang now allowed back into the center.
"It's not the way we do things in here," he said, reports the AP.
According to the Telegraph Mr Wolfgang is a vice-president of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and a vice-chairman of Labour CND. He was a member of the committee that organised the first Aldermaston march and he has been coming to Labour Party conferences regularly since 1959.
CND has not been a significant force in Labour politics since the Neil Kinnock era. But yesterday, thanks to his martyrdom at the hands of the witless stewards who threw him out, Mr Wolfgang received the kind of adulation - and media reception - that would make even Gordon Brown jealous.
Mr Wolfgang was cheered by delegates as he arrived at the doors of the conference hall clutching the pass re-issued to him, cheered as he took his seat in the balcony and cheered again when he was singled out for praise by Mr Reid.
With a CND press officer acting as minder, he then toured the centre giving interviews to journalists, mostly about the shortcomings of New Labour.
On the Prime Minister: "He's the worst leader the Labour Party has ever had, not excluding Ramsay MacDonald." And on Labour as a whole: "The heart of the party is sound. But some people at the end of New Labour are losing their marbles."
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