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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

Roy Hattersley, the former deputy Labour leader, is calling for "affirmative action" to help an ethnic minority candidate win the selection contest for the seat of Birmingham, Sparkbrook, that he is vacating at the general election.

Kevin Scally, Mr Hattersley's constituency party chairman, also said last night that he personally favoured a black and Asian-only shortlist for the seat to ensure that Labour elects its first ethnic minority MP for Birmingham.

"The constituency hasn't discussed this, but I would certainly want that and I believe it would be supported by the majority of the general management committee," Mr Scally said, adding that Labour in Birmingham, with its large ethnic minority community, was embarrassed at its lack of an ethnic minority MP.

In an article in the Independent today Mr Hattersley says that when Labour agreed its plans to increase the number of women candidates he obtained a promise from the party's national executive that similar action would be introduced for ethnic minority candidates.

He is now writing to Tom Sawyer, the party's general secretary, seeking reassurance "that the promise will be kept". Labour's plans for women include women-only shortlists in half the seats that are winnable marginals, or where Labour members are standing down, although Mr Hattersley last night declined to spell out what he meant by "affirmative action".

As he criticised Labour for suspending his own and three other Birmingham constituency parties over the "grants-for-votes" allegations, Mr Hattersley said affirmative action "would remove all suspicion that this strange exercise is simply intended to ensure that sitting members hang on to their seats".

t Nearly three-quarters of trade union members believe Labour's new Clause IV should commit the party to both public and private ownership, according to a Mori poll released last night. Seventy-two per cent of the 675 trade unionists backed a mix of public and private ownership, a mere 10 per cent favoured private ownership only and 4 per cent private ownership alone.

Roy Hattersley, page 17