Short counts the cost of her convictions

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The Independent Online
PATRICIA WYNN DAVIES

Clare Short's rap over the knuckles by Tony Blair, the Labour leader, harks back to the outspoken image that many imagined she had shaken off after moving progressively away from the uncompromising left and eventually into the elected shadow Cabinet.

But the 49-year-old MP for Birmingham Ladywood has never shrunk from articulating allegedly "unpopular" causes, first pressing for women-only parliamentary shortlists in 1990 and eventually seeing it accepted as party policy.

As an old-style conviction politician, a year after she was elected in 1983, she was one of a number of Labour MPs signing a Commons motion calling for a review of the drugs laws. But she shot to media prominence by conducting a fierce campaign - reactivated yesterday in her BBC Breakfast With Frost interview - against tabloid newspaper "page three girls", attacking the practice as pornography.

The Catholic-born Ms Short, who was recently widowed on the death of her husband, the barrister and former Labour MP Alex Lyon, later objected to the parading of Miss World contestants around the House of Commons.

She attracted yet more attention for campaigning in favour of a political settlement under which Britain would withdraw from Northern Ireland and then speaking out against Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

In one of a number of run-ins with Neil Kinnock, she was in effect sacked as an employment spokeswoman in 1988, accusing the then Labour leader of "constant threats and denunciations".

In 1991 she resigned as a social security spokeswoman over Labour's stance on the Gulf war, refusing a call from Mr Kinnock not to speak outside her portfolio.

Despite backing the NEC-rejected Trotskyist candidate Sharon Atkin in 1987, she later became the target of a failed Militant conspiracy to unseat her.

Now firmly of the view that new Labour must win the election before any change can come about, she demonstrated her new loyalty to the leadership by her party conference speech earlier this month strongly endorsing the decision of the National Executive Committee - of which she is a member - to stop the left-wing Islington councillor Liz Davies from standing for Parliament.

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