MP warns of lure of Scargill party

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

Left-wing MPs could leave the Labour Party to link up with Arthur Scargill's breakaway socialist party after the next election, Alan Simpson, secretary of the hard-left Campaign Group of Labour MPs, said yesterday.

He disagreed with the timing of Mr Scargill's move to set up a Socialist Labour Party in May: "Arthur is wrong that this is the defining moment." But he added: "It is possible for today's Labour leadership to take today's Labour Party down a path which would split the party. That would be of the right's making rather than the left."

MPs would leave if three conditions were fulfilled: "The severing altogether of the trade-union link, the introduction of proportional representation and of state funding of political parties."

Advisers to Tony Blair, the Labour leader, have discussed abolition of the union block vote, while he has promised a referendum on a change to proportional representation (PR), and the party is committed to state funding of parties. Mr Simpson, MP for Nottingham South, believes the union link would provide the issue, while PR and state funding would make a rival party viable.

Yesterday a Blair loyalist,Kim Howells, Labour MP for Pontypridd, urged the party to expel the National Union of Mineworkers leader, whom he called a "complete megalomaniac", adding that "if he doesn't like the game that the other kids have organised, he'll take his ball away and start his own. He's always done that".