ANDY Straker, Rushmoor Council's Labour group leader, has slammed rumours that he is quitting because he has fallen out with Tony Blair's policy over Iraq.

He said the "idiots" in the council's Tory group should get their facts right before trying to make political capital out of his departure.

"What they don't know is that I have a brother, Dave, who is with the Royal Marines in Iraq," he said.

"And although I don't support war as such, and I don't know who does, I happen to believe that what we are doing in Iraq is right.

"Saddam Hussein is a maniac who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of his own people, and needs to be removed."

Mr Straker said his thoughts were for the safe homecoming of his 41-year-old brother and the rest of the country's servicemen.

He added that he had decided last year not to defend his Belle Vue Ward seat at the council elections on May 1.

For some time he has found it increasingly difficult to juggle the demands of work and family life with council duties.

His job as South East regional secretary for the Communication Workers' Union entails a great deal of travelling.

"I've enjoyed my time on the council," added Mr Straker. "But after nine years I've had enough."