Labour suspend third MP after smear inquiry

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The Independent Online
Labour suspended its third MP in as many months last night after an internal inquiry found the West Renfrewshire member, Tommy Graham, guilty of smearing a number of his colleagues. One of them, the neighbouring Paisley South MP Gordon McMaster, killed himself last month.

Nick Brown, the party's Chief Whip, ordered the disciplining of Mr Graham despite finding that his actions were not connected with the suicide. The decision overshadowed yesterday's launch of the "yes" campaign for Scottish devolution. Labour plans a further inquiry into Mr Graham's conduct and will send in a task force to look at the running of the party in the area.

Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, last night welcomed the "tough and decisive action" ordered by the party and warned there would be no place in Labour's ranks for wrongdoers.

"The bruising experience of recent days has confirmed my personal resolve to enforce the highest standard of integrity and conduct throughout the Scottish Labour Party. There will be no place in our party for those that fail the test," he said.

It had been claimed that Mr Graham said Mr McMaster was gay and might be suffering from Aids, when in fact the MP had myalgic encephalitis, or ME. He left a note accusing both Mr Graham and Labour's former deputy chief whip, Don Dixon - now Lord Dixon - of conspiring against him.

In a statement, Mr Brown said: "I am satisfied that Gordon was suffering from a severe depressive illness for which he had been receiving treatment over a long period of time and that this, and this alone, was the cause of his death." But he went on: "Sadly, however, there are serious allegations that the Member of Parliament for West Renfrewshire, Tommy Graham, has failed to live up to the high standards expected of the Parliamentary Labour Party. These allegations relate to verbal attacks on colleagues, unrelated to Gordon McMaster's death."

The statement added that alleged links between Mr Graham and a suspended councillor, Paul Mack, would also be investigated. Tom Sawyer, the party's general secretary, will oversee the further investigations. He will also co-operate with a police investigation into claims that public money was used to fund a company connected with drug dealing. A Labour councillor and a former councillor who are directors of the company have been suspended from party office.

A separate statement from Mr Sawyer said Mr Graham's constituency would be run under his supervision in the interim. Mr Sawyer added that there would be a further investigation into membership irregularities in the Paisley North constituency, whose MP, Irene Adams, has been attacked as "lazy" by Mr Graham. There would be a full membership check in Paisley South.

It also emerged last night that Mr Sawyer was told of irregularities in the selection process in Mr Graham's constituency last year but failed to act.

A statement from Mr Graham's lawyer, Ian Robertson, said: "My client will only be suspended by the Labour Party pending the inquiry into other matters which have arisen in the past few weeks. Mr Graham welcomes the opportunity of answering these allegations and looks forward to clearing his name."

Raymond Robertson, the chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association and a former Scottish Office minister, called for a full public inquiry. "It is no longer good enough for Labour to promise internal inquiries and to pledge to put its own house in order. The lesson of recent weeks is that Labour are simply unable to take the effective action necessary," he said.

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