Blair moves to block hard-left candidate

Labour Party selection for Parliament: Poll tax rebel picked in marginal seat may be ousted
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The Independent Online
Tony Blair, the Labour leader, is expected to ask the party's National Executive to block a hard-left candidate chosen two weeks ago to fight a key Yorkshire marginal seat at the next election.

Mr Blair is understood to have "gone ballistic" over the selection of Liz Davies, an Islington councillor, whose conviction for non-payment of the poll tax only emerged after she was chosen as the candidate for Leeds North East on 1 July.

National officials confirmed yesterday that complaints had been received from members of the local Labour Party and were being investigated. One member claims Ms Davies concealed her conviction when asked directly at the selection meeting if there were any "skeletons in her political cupboard" which might embarrass the party.

Officials said they would be studying a film of the selection meeting made by Yorkshire TV before preparing a report to Labour's National Executive for its next meeting on 26 July. "We have got to look into the complaints that have been made. It is too early to say what the executive's attitude will be," said an official. The National Executive has to endorse the local party's choice before Ms Davies becomes the official candidate. Only once in recent years has a candidate not been endorsed - Sharon Atkin in Nottingham East in April 1987.

Leeds North East is held by Conservative whip Tim Kirkhope with a majority of 4,244, and is just the kind of seat Labour must win to have an overall majority in the House of Commons. The seat is not affected by boundary changes.

Ms Davies's selection is also a potential embarrassment for Labour's policy of all-woman short lists in half of its winnable seats. Leeds North East Labour Party volunteered to restrict its choice of candidate to women, but not enough parties have come forward and a further three or four are required in the region. Nationally, only one local party, in Slough, is so far being forced against its will to draw up an all-woman list.

Ms Davies told the Yorkshire Post yesterday: "I was selected by a clear majority of party members who voted in Leeds North East. The process was overseen by a representative of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. The selection procedure was a model of participatory democracy."

Mr Blair is known to be a vehement supporter of the argument of his predecessor, Neil Kinnock, that MPs who make laws should obey them - even bad laws such as the poll tax.

A Post survey of local voters found views were divided. One said: "I do not agree with a person being a Member of Parliament who is not prepared to obey the laws of the land, which are made in Parliament." Another disagreed: "I like the fact that she especially went the whole hog against the poll tax. Without people like her we'd still be paying it."

t Ten candidates are to contest the by-election in Conservative-held Littleborough and Saddleworth, where polling takes place on 27 July. The Tories are defending a majority of 4,494 in the Pennines seat left vacant by the death of Geoffrey Dickens.

The candidates are: John Hudson (Conservative), Chris Davies (Liberal Democrat), Phil Woolas (Labour), Mr Blobby (House Party), Peter Douglas (Conversative Party), Lawson David McLaren (Old Labour/Probity of Imposed Candidate), Colin Richard Palmer, Lord of Manton (21st Century Party), Andrew Pitts (Socialist Party), Lord David Sutch (Official Monster Raving Loony Party), John Whitaker (UK Independence Party).

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