Hanley hits out over `corruption'

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Indy Politics
Jeremy Hanley, Tory Party chairman, yesterday attempted to step up his attack on Labour council "corruption", to immediate Labour claims that another initiative had backfired.

Mr Hanley used a local government elections news conference to follow up last week's assertion that Labour councils "tend to be corrupt" with a dossier of examples.

But Frank Dobson, Labour's environment spokesman, was quick to spotlight a number of claimed errors in the document, entitled "Labour's Rotten Boroughs: The McKinstry Report".

Leo McKinstry is a disaffected former Labour parliamentary researcher who slipped effortlessly into a job as associate editor at the Spectator, the right-wing weekly, after writing a vitriolic article about his old council, Islington, following the surprise loss of his seat in last year's local elections.

Mr Hanley challenged Labour to make public its findings on vote-rigging allegations in Birmingham as he launched the dossier of alleged corruption in councils including Monklands, Corby, Tameside, Lambeth, Haringey and South Tyneside. Other councils are accused of "political correctness", excessive bureaucracy, abuse of public money, failure to deliver efficient services, "absurd" grants, and keeping dishonest employees on the payroll.

Despite the imprimatur to give the impression of a report containing fresh information, many of the claims are recycled.

After the party's recent travails over Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, Mr Hanley stressed the need for party unity: "I would ask all Conservatives to remember who the real enemy is. The real enemy is socialism."

But he received another less than ringing endorsement, this time from Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, who told BBC radio's Today programme: "I am very supportive of the party chairman revealing weaknesses in the socialist system wherever they apply, and the way he says it is entirely a matter for him."

John Maples, deputy chairman, came close to apologising for the corruption claim last week. But Mr Hanley said yesterday that his attacks had the full blessing of John Major.

Mr Dobson meanwhile condemned the document for "lies, distortion and smears". The allegations included a trebling of the amount spent by Nottingham on equal opportunities and omitting mention of a Home Office grant for its work in the area.

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