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Left-wing attack on `Leninist Cabinet' of Blair

TONY BLAIR is running a "Leninist" government staffed by at least three ministers with Communist backgrounds, one of Labour's leading left- wingers has warned.

Mark Seddon, a member of the party's ruling National Executive Committee, said New Labour's desire for central control stemmed from many of its members' pasts in far-left groups. He cites John Reid, the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alan Milburn, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Kim Howells, the Consumer Affairs minister, as Government members who had roots in either the Communist Party or the International Socialists.

In an article in today's Spectator magazine, the Tribune editor says New Labour has successfully copied all of the infiltration and controlling tactics of the early Soviet leaders.

As a result, this year's party conference in Bournemouth will be the most muted in years, with no chance for debate or genuine democracy, he says.

"The conference, as with much else, has been hijacked. There is much here that loyal deputies to the Congress of People's Deputies in Beijing could recognise and applaud," Mr Seddon writes. "Labour, at its best, was a broad church. Today, in classic Leninist mould, it is centralised and top-down. The Leninists have taken over."

Mr Seddon quotes Phillip Gould, the Prime Minister'sfavourite pollster saying that "in periods of change, a little bit of Leninism goes a long way".

Many ministers, including members of the Cabinet, were once members of the traditional extremist parties, he says. "Sadly, all too many who currently hold sway in my party spent their youth not in the decent old Labour Party of Michael Foot or Barbara Castle, but in the Communist Party and the International Socialists."

Tony Benn, Letters,

Review, page 2