MP opposing control freaks wins election

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GROWING OPPOSITION to Labour's "control freakery" has finally spread to its MPs, with the election of a leading backbench rebel to the parliamentary party's ruling executive.

Andrew Mackinlay, who was the first Labour MP publicly to criticise Tony Blair's authoritarian leadership style, won a seat on the executive with the support of 126 MPs.

Mr Mackinlay, MP for Thurrock, immediately used his new position to warn Millbank to "ease off" Ken Livingstone's mayoral bid, members of the National Executive Committee and other victims of increasing centralised control.

Unless the party allowed more dissent, Mr Blair could end up using his huge majority to push through "some disaster like the poll tax", he said.

Mr Mackinlay's election to the Parliamentary Labour Party's executive committee on Tuesday night comes just four months after he stunned fellow MPs with an attack on the Prime Minister in the House of Commons. He said that Labour's attempt to choreograph MPs' questions and voting risked turning them into "fawning, obsequious" lobby fodder. Mr Mackinlay revealed yesterday that he had decided to stand for the election after seeing a report in Monday's Independent that MPs could face vetting panels before being reselected.

Mr Mackinlay's election leaflet included the article alongside a reprint of Private Eye's St Albion Parish News column, a spoof of Mr Blair's leadership style.

He said yesterday that his "mission" on the executive would be to ensure that Mr Blair and the party as a whole were more sensitive to the views and traditions of backbenchers.

"I think the party has got much to be proud of, but it needs to relax its hands on the tiller. It is in the long-term interests of the Prime Minister and the Government if they allow debate and discussion by mature people," he said.

"This is not disunity and I am no loony left-winger. There are no extremes in the party any more, so there is no need to go over the top against either constituency parties or the PLP.

"Both Labour and the Tory party managers are trying to choreograph what happens in Parliament and it has got to be fiercely resisted. Democracy demands it."

One backbencher said last night that the vote for Mr Mackinlay was a clear shot across the bows for Mr Blair after recent "control-freak" revelations and his failure to consult them over the Lib-Lab deal with Paddy Ashdown

"This was a secret ballot, and 126 of us voting for him prove that we want an independent voice speaking up for us. We are as fed up with this stuff as ordinary members," the MP said.