Scargill seeks NUM funds to finance breakaway party

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Arthur Scargill plans to use the pounds 100,000 political fund of the National Union of Mineworkers to finance the Socialist Labour Party, which is to field a candidate in opposition to Labour at the Hemsworth by-election on 1 February.

Mr Scargill's supporters have drawn up a motion to sever the union's links with Labour which his allies in Yorkshire intend to table at the NUM's annual conference this summer.

The move provoked opposition from NUM sponsored-Labour MPs who have threatened to resign their union membership if it disaffiliates. Leaders of the union outside Yorkshire indicated they would secede from the union if Mr Scargill was successful.

Joe Wills, Midlands area secretary, said the NUM president would have considerable difficulty in winning the support of the union's national executive. He said: "I've been a member of the Labour Party all my life and I will remain a member of the Labour Party. I'm sure every other member of the executive feels the same way."

Dave Douglas, of Hatfield Main colliery, said he was preparing to put forward the proposition at the Yorkshire area council. "The Labour Party no longer represents the working class in general or the miners in particular. It's a waste of time and money," he said.

The SLP candidate for the Hemsworth by-election is Brenda Nixon, 35, the wife of a Hatfield Main miner. Mrs Nixon is a friend of Ann Scargill, the NUM president's wife, and has been active in the Women Against Pit Closure group.

Eric Illsley, the past chairman of the NUM group of Labour MPs, said last night: "The miners' sponsored MPs as far as I am aware will remain within the Labour Party, will not have anything to do with the new party. I think it is sad that Arthur has formed a party and decided to try to attract left-wing support rather than stay within the Labour Party," he said.

Dennis Skinner, the MP for Bolsover, said there was no question of the NUM disaffiliating from the Labour Party and predicted it would never be agreed by the union.

Mr Scargill's new party organisation was set up at a meeting in a London hotel last Saturday. When asked how the party was to be funded, he reportedly told left-wing associates: "Don't worry about the money."