Tony Blair shuttle diplomacy in the battle to build a coalition against Saddam appears to be paying off. His vow to deal with Iraq may have received support from seven European leaders but opinion closer to home remains sharply divided.

During the past few days, The Northern Echo has surveyed every MP in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

We asked if they believed that, in the wake of President Bush's bullish State of the Union address to the American people, war was now inevitable.

We also asked if they believed Britain should only go to war if the UN specifically authorised the use of force.

Finally, they were asked if they were in favour of war.

The results were surprising. They revealed a perfect split in Labour's heartland among MPs who said they could only back war in the event of a UN resolution and those who said Britain shouldn't use force at all.

Only two backbench MPs - Middlesbrough's Stuart Bell and Vale of York MP Anne McIntosh - said they were in favour of military action irrespective of the UN.

Although unavailable for comment yesterday, Tony Blair has made his position on the need for action against Iraq abundantly clear.

Only this weekend he warned that the UN had a matter of weeks to establish that Iraq had rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.

And he said that a failure by Saddam to co-operate with inspectors would amount to a breach of UN resolutions which would be "every bit as much a breach as finding, for example, a missile or a chemical agent".

This week, he told MPs that the Government was aware of links between Saddam Hussein's regime and Osama bin Laden's network of al Qaida operatives.

Referring to President Bush's State of the Union address, Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "President Bush set out very eloquently why we need to take action to ensure that Saddam is disarmed. The case needs to be made over and over again.