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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
MP's anger after camera is seized
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News Website

Austin Mitchell
Mr Mitchell is a keen photographer
Security at Labour's conference has been attacked as "mad and over the top" after an MP's camera was seized and pictures deleted.

Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell is furious at what he believes is the unnecessarily tough security at the Brighton conference centre.

He was approached by stewards as he took pictures of delegates queuing to pick up their passes.

The incident comes after an elderly heckler was removed from the hall.

'Carte Blanche'

Mr Mitchell, a keen amateur photographer, was taking photographs of the queues when stewards demanded to know what he was doing.

He said: "The police were called over and asked if they could look at my pictures. I said of course they could but I did not want the pictures deleted.

"I kept repeating that I did not want the shots deleted and the police officer said it was alright because he didn't know how to use the camera.

"After he handed it back to me I found he had deleted every picture. This is security gone mad. And what's the point."

"The party has given the security staff absolute carte blanche and they have gone mad. It's completely over the top."


The latest incident came on the day serious complaints were made over the heavy-handed way an elderly heckler was bundled out of the conference hall after accusing Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of lying over Iraq.

Walter Wolfgang, who is in his 80s, was grabbed by two security officers and removed from the main hall.

Another man who then attempted to complain about the treatment was also lifted from his feet and ejected.

"They claim it is all about security, but it is really to cover up the chaos and shambles the security is causing," said Mr Mitchell.

The security officers' behaviour was condemned as "very heavy-handed" by Labour MP Linda Riordan, whose own attempt to have Iraq debated was blocked by conference organisers.


And a protest about the incident was raised on the conference floor by Mole Valley delegate Carol Hayton, who told session chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham: "We are very concerned about the way in which a gentleman of over 80 was manhandled from the balcony.

"Perhaps more appropriate action could have been taken, but this was an 80-year-old gentleman and I am sure that Jack Straw, a politician of great experience, is able to deal with events of this kind without that kind of response from our stewards."

Sir Jeremy said that Labour's Conference Arrangements Committee was looking into the incident and would report back on Wednesday.

Ms Riordan was sitting just a few rows in front of the ejected man when he began shouting.

"He was immediately surrounded by three or four stewards and physically lifted off his feet and bundled out of a side door," she said.

"The treatment was very heavy-handed. It was over the top. "It was tactless and unnecessary.


The Foreign Secretary is perfectly capable, given his experience, of dealing with hecklers."

Ms Riordan's predecessor as Halifax MP, the prominent anti-war campaigner Alice Mahon, also witnessed the incident.

She said: "We were listening to Jack talking about Iraq. This gentleman shouted `That's rubbish, that's a lie'.

"Two or three of the security people dived on him. This other chap a couple of rows in front turned round and said `You must be joking', because this was simple political heckling. He wasn't threatening anybody.

"He got manhandled out as well. I think they were really over the top."

A Labour Party spokesman said: "Following a disturbance in the visitors' balcony, two people were escorted out, having been asked three times to be quiet."

There were similar incidents last year, with one pro-hunting demonstrator removed from the hall when he attempted to heckle Tony Blair during his speech.


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