Labour cold-shoulders Donnygate councillors

Local politicians in Doncaster, some of whom have been accused of accepting "inappropriate" gifts and hospitality, have been excluded from the shortlist for a new MP for the area.

Labour's National Executive Committee last night picked four party members for a one-member-one-vote ballot on a replacement for the Don Valley MP Martin Redmond, who died last month. None is from Doncaster.

The four who were chosen are Mike Watson, the existing MP for Glasgow Central who does not have a seat for the forthcoming election; Mark Walker, a national officer of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union; Caroline Flint, an officer with the General Municipal and Boilermakers' Union; and Cath Ashton, a convenor with the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union.

Thirteen people had been nominated by local party branches and affiliated organisations, and all were interviewed yesterday. All were asked to give their opinions on allegations that the council has been run by a tightly- knit group, some of whose members have breached council rules.

A spokesman said the selection had been made on the assumption that there could be a by-election in the seat.

"We considered them to be the only four who would be able to cope with the rigours of a parliamentary by-election," he said.

The beleaguered ruling Labour group on Doncaster Council voted yesterday to ban foreign trips to attend conferences.

But the Doncaster councillors cannot quite see what the fuss is about, despite the recent critical District Auditor's report into their activities, and they will still be allowed to travel abroad for twinning visits and for efforts in trying to attract inward investment.

At yesterday's meeting, the council leadership suggested that the recent controversy was all a plot by the Tory-dominated media, even though it was the criticism by the District Auditor over business-class flights to China, Japan and Hong Kong and drunken working lunches at pounds 50-a-head which first drew attention to what is now called "Donnygate".

Yesterday, Ron Gillies, thechairman of the racecourse committee, outlined the new controls on foreign trips. He was quick to say that the District Auditor was not against the "principle of foreign trips," but he was worried about the way they had been sanctioned. While many are beneficial in attracting help from Europe and inward investment, Mr Gillies said all trips would be submitted to a council committee for approval in future.

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