Judge tells Labour to reconsider ballot

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The Independent Online
A High Court judge yesterday ordered Tony Blair and the Labour Party's national executive to reconsider their refusal to re-run a controversial selection ballot at Swindon North.

Sir John Vinelott indicated that the decision of the Labour leadership had been based on a misleading presentation of the facts by Peter Coleman, the party's director of development.

Last month the NEC voted by 14 votes to 9 to set up a sub-committee to appoint a Labour parliamentary candidate for the constituency rather than order a fresh vote.

The first ballot in September was won by Michael Wills, a London-based television producer. However, the runner-up, Jim D'Avila, a Rover car factory convenor for the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, alleged that there had been irregularities.

The bitterness engendered by the dispute has been characterised as a battle between a London "luvvie" and a local working class lad, although the party leadership insists that this is an oversimplification.

In his judgment, Sir John conceded he had no power to order the Labour Party to change a "political" decision and refused to grant an injunction to Mr D'Avila, who was backed by his union. "The only fair course for Mr D'Avila and the local electorate is to ask the NEC to take a fresh look at this, free from the accusations made by Mr Coleman, which were not fair to Mr D'Avila," the judge said.

n The veteran Labour campaigner for the disabled, Alf Morris, last night said he was retiring at the next election. Mr Morris, MP for Wythenshawe, Manchester, who celebrates his 68th birthday today, has a majority of 11,996.