GOVERNMENT Chief Whip Hilary Armstrong was confronted by anti-war protesters who burst into a Labour Party meeting in her County Durham constituency.

The North-West Durham MP was addressing local Labour members when several banner-waving campaigners interrupted the private meeting at Consett Civic Centre.

Police were called and the protestors agreed to leave the council chamber, but only after Ms Armstrong pledged to speak to them after the meeting.

At the conclusion of business she lived up to her promise and spoke to the dozen-strong protest group, consisting of students and other anti-war activists from the county and from Tyneside.

James Renwick, a trainee journalist from Croxdale, near Durham, said the Commons' whip attempted to defend the Government actions in Iraq, despite the misgivings of some party members, but struggled to make her point as the protestors noisily voiced their opinions.

Mr Renwick said: "She told them she believed in listening, and then said when there were such divided opinions you could not satisfy everyone."

Following last Friday's frank exchange of views, under the watchful eye of police, Ms Armstrong left in a waiting car, but only after being presented petitions from people opposed to the war.

Acting inspector Eddie Bell, of Consett Police, said the incident passed peacefully without any arrests or any need for intervention by his officers.