Blair was alerted to Doncaster shenanigans 18 months ago

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair was alerted to widespread abuses among the ruling Labour clique on Doncaster council almost 18 months ago.

A former councillor, Ron Rose, received no reply to the letter which was delivered to Mr Blair by Tony Booth, the Labour Party leader's actor father-in-law and a friend of Mr Rose.

Mr Rose was told that the letter had been passed to officials at party headquarters. He wrote again last month, outlining the way in which the Mining Community Group, a small group of leading councillors, "meets in secret to dispense patronage and favours".

Mr Booth said last night: "Tony Blair read the letter and passed it on to be dealt with by Labour Party officials."

On Tuesday, The Independent revealed that some members of the ruling Labour group in Doncaster had flown around the world and gone on drunken binges at the expense of council taxpayers.

Mr Rose's letters describe several similar events and provide evidence of widespread misbehaviour by councillors. His second letter says: "Doncaster is a can of worms for the party", and he goes on to make allegations against a number of senior members.

Mr Rose, a playwright who wrote a BBC TV series, Love and Reason, about a corrupt local council, fell foul of the Mining Community Group when he was a councillor between 1986 and 1990. The second letter addressed to Mr Blair describes a series of events over the past 15 years during which the council was allegedly run by a cabal.

Sally Morgan, one of Mr Blair's aides, telephoned Mr Rose to say that she was dealing with the matter.

Mr Rose, who was suspended from the party after writing a letter to the local paper about the Mining Community Group, says he was the victim of a "vendetta because of my fight against corruption on the council." He is seeking "a commitment from the party for an independent and properly qualified investigation into Doncaster District Labour Party".

The letter to Mr Blair goes on: "The Mining Community Group still meets in secret to dispense patronage and favours".

Mr Rose's first letter to the Labour leader in October 1995 also refers to allegations of "systematic corruption that is endemic within the Doncaster Labour Group". He said: "The main weapon to be used was the payment of NUM members to attend meetings to back NUM motions and nominees". The system was later "hijacked to take over the local council", according to Mr Rose.

Mr Rose said last night: "I wrote to Tony Blair because I know we now have someone in the leader's office who is prepared to tackle this type of issue among local Labour parties. Ms Morgan was very sympathetic and said she would be coming back to me."

On Tuesday night, one of the Labour councillors who had gone on several trips abroad at the council's expense, Tony Sellars, won his third ward nomination for the Don Valley seat which is currently vacant following the death of Martin Redmond.

Mr Sellars has so far won all three ward nominations. The party's National Executive Committee will be meeting next Monday to interview the candidates and decide on a shortlist, which will be voted on next month by local Labour Party members.

Leading article, page 17

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