New Labour leadership split over Shadow Cabinet vote

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The Independent Online
New Labour leadership split over Shadow Cabinet vote

A new split appeared between Tony Blair and his deputy John Prescott last night over the idea of cancelling this autumn's elections for the Shadow Cabinet, writes John Rentoul, Political Correspondent. Sources close to the Labour leader said the Parliamentary Labour Party would decide whether to hold the elections and Mr Blair did not have a view, but sources equally close to Mr Prescott said he expected there to be shadow cabinet elections unless a general election came first.

Labour MPs voted last week against bringing the elections forward from November to July, but there was considerable support for suspending them, which was not put to a vote. Mr Blair is believed to regard annual shadow cabinet elections as a distraction and a chance for Old Labour to assert itself. Scrapping the elections would save health spokeswoman Harriet Harman from the risk of being thrown out by colleagues angry over her decision to send her son to a selective grant- maintained school, in defiance of official party policy.

Robin Cook, who regularly comes top of the shadow cabinet poll, yesterday denied reports that the Labour leader planned to cancel this year's vote, and backbench opinion seemed to favour keeping the contest. Clive Soley, a former frontbencher who was never in the Shadow Cabinet, said: "On balance, it would be better to have them. I do think it's quite a good measure of the temperature in the party."