Castle attacks `dictator' Blair

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair's plans to place the former Tory Alan Howarth MP in a safe Labour seat looked to be in trouble last night, as he faced accusations of "dictatorship" by Baroness Castle, a veteran of the Labour left.

Reports last night suggested Mr Howarth had been rebuffed in his bid to find a labour seat at Wentworth, after constituency party members wrote to him saying that all Labour candidates are required to be party members for two years.

Meanwhile, Lady Castle castigated the Labour leader over his decision to put the basics of the party's election manifesto to a full membership ballot. Lady Castle complained that the decision "does really remind you a little of an election in a one party state".

In an attack reminiscent ofcriticisms of Mr Blair's style of leadership started by the MP Richard Burden last summer, Lady Castle condemned the ballot plan, which Mr Blair unveiled last week and which was widely seen as eclipsing the party conference and in particular the union block vote.

The former Cabinet minister said on BBC Radio's Today programme that while there was little or none of the bitter left-right infighting which characterised the party in the sixties, "there is an unease lest we should over-emphasise the impression of uniformity".