Labour Conference: Tribune rally row - Cook pulls out of left's rally

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ROBIN COOK and John Edmonds have pulled out of tomorrow's Tribune rally, where they were due to share the platform with the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams. Mr Edmonds, leader of the GMB general workers' union, did so because Tribune failed to invite David Trimble, Northern Ireland's First Minister.

He said there was a need to maintain the bipartisan approach that underpinned the Good Friday Agreement. "Our union has always drawn support from both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland. Our members are both Protestant and Catholic. I would be happy to share a platform with both Gerry Adams and David Trimble. I am not prepared to exclude one section of the community at this crucial time in the peace process. Now more than ever we need to maintain unity."

Mr Edmonds said he asked the Tribune group to invite Mr Trimble, who was visiting the Labour conference in Blackpool, but it declined to do so.

"They simply said they did not have the room for another speaker." He told the group he was prepared to forgo some of his allotted time to allow Mr Trimble to speak but that did not prove acceptable. He was told Tribune rallies were not intended to centre on one theme and it were meant to afford a platform to speakers on a wide variety of issues.

Mr Cook's friends said the Foreign Secretary had withdrawn because he will be hosting the international reception at the main conference hotel but it would also avoid potential embarrassment over Mr Adams. "Robin has not pulled out because of Gerry Adams, but there was always the potential for embarrassment. The arrangement was that Robin would speak at the start and Adams at the end," said one of his friends.

"Robin is not doing this because of Gerry Adams but he is not too sad about it."