Left-wing MPs ignore Scargill party's rallying cry

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Political Correspondent

Arthur Scargill's breakaway Socialist Labour Party will turn out to have been still-born, MPs on the Labour left predicted yesterday. Not a single member of the socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs is even vaguely interested, Alan Simpson, the group's secretary, said.

"Arthur would have been better advised to go for the England job; that's a job that's going that no one wants," Mr Simpson, MP for Nottingham South, said. "There is no interest on the left of the party."

The same message came from Campaign Group MP Ken Livingstone, who pointed out the absence of a single Labour MP, trade union chief, or Labour council leader at the National Union of Mineworkers' leader's "goodbye Labour" meeting at a hotel in King's Cross, London, at the weekend.

"Just a small group of supporters and quite frankly a small group of nutters as well in many cases," Mr Livingstone, MP for Brent East, told GMTV's Sunday programme. "Nobody serious in the Labour Party is going to opt out ..."

Mr Scargill, the sole household name at the meeting, has already taken his own steps to ensure that the Militant group, expelled by Neil Kinnock from Labour in the 1980, is excluded from his new organisation, thus ensuring a split in the hard-left even before his party is officially launched on 1 May.

Tony Blair, the Labour leader, conspicuously omitted to urge Mr Scargill to change his mind about tearing up his membership card in his BBC1 Breakfast with Frost interview yesterday, invoking the defection as proof that the party had changed, and that "new" Labour in opposition would stay new Labour in government. Mr Scargill declared in an earlier interview that Labour had managed to destroy socialism in the party in a way that even Margaret Thatcher had failed to do, and had embraced "the devil" of capitalism.

But Mr Simpson's prescriptions for the way forward for the left show just how far the mood of the left has changed since the heyday of Britain's best-known class warrior. He said: "There is no right-left division in the party over the desire to have a Labour government. The whole party is clear that in order to change the policies of the country, we have to change the government of the country."

Left-wing MPs vowed to fight their corner from within the party. Mick Clapham, the NUM sponsored left-of-centre MP for Barnsley West and Penistone and a one-time close colleague of the union president, said it was a tragedy that Mr Scargill was not staying to fight the cause. He added: "The Labour Party is the dominant political force and it is the place where socialists should be."