Cook's Legacy: Debate on former foreign secretary's views is vetoed

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Indy Politics

Twenty local parties had backed the motion, which threatened to embarrass Tony Blair by highlighting Mr Cook's resignation over Iraq and his rejection of many Blairite reforms, including the expansion of the role of private companies in public services.

The motion made a sideswipe at the invasion of Iraq, arguing that "our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules". It also challenged the increasing role played by the private sector in public services such as the National Health Service, calling for "the defence of public services and the public service ethos", including renewed efforts to "make the ideological case for health and education as a public realm in which citizenship is more important than market power".

The motion was ruled out of order by the party's conference arrangements committee, which controls the selection of emergency resolutions for debate at conference.

David Clark, Mr Cook's former special adviser, criticised the decision yesterday not to allow delegates the opportunity to debate the motion. "Robin was not just a valued colleague and friend to many at conference, he was a political force in his own right and that is how his friends wanted to remember him," he said.

"This shows a certain amount of paranoia. There is nothing in the motion that Tony Blair would disagree with. The very idea somebody in the Labour Party can have an autonomous personality that people identify with is a taboo for the party. It suggests a certain amount of jealousy, which is regrettable."

A video tribute to Mr Cook, Mo Mowlam, the former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, and Jim Callaghan, the former prime minister, which was shown at conference did not mention Mr Cook's resignation over Iraq, although it highlighted his acclaimed performance during the arms-to-Iraq affair.

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