Jackson 'silenced by Blair'

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The Independent Online
LABOUR MP Glenda Jackson pulled out of a meeting yesterday by pro-abortion campaigners at which she had been billed as one of the principal speakers.

Members of the National Abortion Campaign (NAC), which organised the meeting, distributed a leaflet saying the absence of the former actress was due to "last-minute scheduling of a campaigns meeting by Tony Blair."

"I'm not at all surprised that Glenda Jackson isn't here," said speaker Madeleine Simms, a pro-choice activist with 35 years' campaigning behind her. "Tony Blair has told Labour MPs not to enter into any commitments that might prove embarrassing before the next general election. Harriet Harman was once in the forefront of our campaign, but now she's absolutely silent. These days, when we write to politicians we just get bland replies."

However, Ms Jackson "absolutely and categorically" denied the Labour leadership had decided to stop her speaking. "It is a ridiculous suggestion," she said.

"As I made very clear to the conference organisers on Thursday, it was constituency business that prevented me speaking. If people are going around saying that Tony Blair or anyone else had anything to do with it, it's outrageous."

Ms Jackson was due to speak on "abortion and political change" at the conference, entitled "Widening Choice - Abortion in the 1990s", and highlighting the claim that the UK has fallen behind the rest of Europe when it comes to abortion legislation.

Anne-Marie Keary, who chairs the NAC, said the conference marked the pro-choice lobby "going on the offensive" to try to move abortion-on-demand up the political agenda. At present the law demands the agreement of two doctors before an abortion is approved.

Ms Keary, who is herself 28 weeks pregnant and looking forward to motherhood, said that MPs were afraid to tackle the subject of abortion. "Labour is running scared, and it shouldn't. Labour had a right-to-choose policy, but now there seems to be a real fear of the issue with the next election looming."