Labour Conference: Left attacks 'rigged' speeches

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The Independent Online
LABOUR LEADERS faced new allegations of "rigging" their annual conference last night after an internal document, leaked to The Independent, revealed how they tried to ensure that loyal delegates were chosen to speak in debates.

The report disclosed that Labour's Millbank headquarters in London asked its regional offices to draw up a list of "reliable" speakers who would support the Government and allow officials to draft their speeches.

Left-wingers seized on the report as further evidence of the "control freak tendency" at Millbank. But they claimed the attempt had backfired and that delegates had shown they were not afraid to criticise the Government.

The document described "three basic categories" of speaker which party officials were asked to line up. The first was "an extra special one or two for every debate ... the one who will get on TV, who we should work with on speech in advance of conference. Speech should be good for TV but also tackle arguments against our position strongly."

The second group was described as "normal - people with stories to tell, not fantastic but time-fillers". The thirdwas "loyal people with initiative. People ready to get up and speak without needing to be prompted and without us needing to write their speech for them. Need to be strong speakers who can persuade people and reliable."

Training sessions were held in the run-up to the Blackpool conference. Some delegates were asked to fill in a questionnaire asking whether they had "a story to tell" and whether there were "local examples to show Labour's achievements".

Labour also faced embarrassment over the revelation that a list of the 188 delegates from the London region showed that only 14 of them were considered suitable to speak in Blackpool. Unreliable delegates were described variously as "Trot", "naive", or a "Ken Livingstone supporter", while a loyal person was dubbed "a softie". Labour confirmed that the list was genuine but said disciplinary action had been taken against the party official who had written on it.