Labour Party Conference: Cherie's father attacks `androids of Millbank'

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The Independent Online
THE LABOUR leadership came under fierce attack from his own father- in-law last night when Tony Booth castigated the "androids of Millbank" who were planning "world domination". Mr Booth was cheered at a rally of the left-wing Tribune magazine at Bournemouth when he criticised Labour's lack of internal democracy.

"What is going on at Millbank? Does anyone know where these Millbank androids come from? Their master plan is to divert us to a spurious debate about Old Labour and New Labour so they can fulfil their master plan of world domination."

While Mr Booth, a former actor, stopped short of attacking Tony Blair personally, such an outburst from a family member is likely to be embarrassing for the Prime Minister and his wife, Cherie. Mr Booth added that he was offended by suggestions that Gordon Brown would by the next leader of the party because it was up to members to decide.

"When I heard these reports, I thought, hang on a minute. Have they forgotten one small detail? It is not Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, or Gordon Brown's spin-doctors who will decide who is the next leader - it is the members. We have one member, one vote in this party."

During his speech, Mr Booth called for a fully elected second chamber to replace the present House of Lords, in which "they all would go, the bishops, the lords and the Lord Chancellor, too".

He also criticised the Government's decision to sell arms to "genocidal maniacs" in Indonesia in light of the East Timor crisis.

Mr Booth was joined at the rally by leading left wing MPs such as Ken Livingstone and Tony Benn. Margaret Beckett, the leader of the Commons, and Rhodri Morgan also gave speeches at the high-profile fringe event.

t Pressure on Ken Livingstone to stand as an independent candidate for mayor of London increased yesterday with the news that Labour officials had drawn up detailed plans to block him.

The former GLC leader said he still believed that Tony Blair would not stymie his candidacy, but senior party figures confirmed that a "disloyalty dossier" had been compiled by Millbank. Under the plan, a special vetting committee will subject Mr Livingstone to what critics call a "show trial", using his own criticism of government policy as evidence of his unsuitability for the Labour nomination for mayor.

News of the move to block the Brent East MP came as Lord Archer of Weston- super-Mare, the front-runner for the Tory nomination, also ran into claims that his candidacy would tarnish the image of his party. Secret research by Conservative Central Office found that focus groups believed that Lord Archer could resurrect the "sleazy" image of the Tories if he won the ballot of party members due to be announced this Friday.

Although Lord Archer shrugged off the research his main rival, Steven Norris, said it proved the peer was a candidate who could not cross the party divide and appeal to a wide cross-section of voters.

The Labour vetting committee will be a vital element of a "short, sharp" selection system being devised to get a candidate in place before Christmas, five months ahead of the election. The Independent has learnt that the party's ruling National Executive Committee is likely next month to approve a five-week system for the selection, which would see hopefuls interviewed by a 12-strong panel before a shortlist is put to a capital-wide ballot of members. Contrary to reports yesterday, the panel will not be chaired by John Prescott, the deputy Prime Minister.

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