Rebel Labour MEPs accuse party machine of dirty tricks

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The Independent Online
Two rebel Labour MEPs opposed to plans to reform the welfare state accused party spin doctors of dirty tricks when it appeared they had defected to the Green Party. Labour sources insisted the President of the European Parliament was convinced Ken Coates and Hugh Kerr had switched groups - opening them to immediate expulsion from the party.

Party sources this week urged the two to resign before they were expelled, but Mr Coates said the situation was being wrongly "spun" to the media by Labour as though he had made a decision "of great moment". In fact, he said, he would like to stay in the Socialist Group "for ever and ever" if it would have him, but had been forced by European Parliament bureaucracy to consider taking up an offer from the Greens of "honorary" membership. Currently he "hadn't a clue" which group he now officially belonged to.

But Labour sources accused him of "backpeddling on a technicality. It will impress no-one". They insisted the President of the European Parliament, Jose Maria Gil-Robles Gil-Delgado, Labour MEP and Socialist group leader Pauline Green and European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP) leader Wayne David were all convinced the two men had left the Socialist group and joined the Greens. Departure from the Socialist group would automatically see the two out of the EPLP.

If they had joined the Greens, then the question of whether that has earned them automatic expulsion from Labour itself was not immediately clear. But Labour sources said they were sure pressure would now build on the two men to leave the party. Mr Coates' local party chairman said he should "do the decent thing" by standing down and fighting a by- election.