Labour MP was offered peerage to head off rebellion, widow says

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Indy Politics

Scotland Yard will consider investigating a claim that Peter Law, the rebel MP who defeated Labour in one of its safest parliamentary seats, was offered a peerage as an inducement to stand aside. Mr Law, who died last week, ran as an independent at the last general election in Blaenau Gwent, previously the safest Labour seat in Wales.

The allegation by his widow that a "high-ranking politician" had tried to buy him off with a seat in the Lords has been emphatically denied by the Labour Party. But suspicious Tories queried how the Labour Party could be in a position to be so sure the allegation was false, so soon after it was aired.

The shadow Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, wrote to Tony Blair demanding a "full and independent investigation" into the allegation made by Trish Law. In a letter, delivered to Downing Street, Mrs Gillan said: "Given the limited time scale between the interview and the denial, which 'senior Labour politicians' were contacted last night about the allegation, which government minister authorised the denial, and what inquiries did he or she make before issuing it?"

Mrs Law had told BBC Wales's Dragon's Eye programme that Labour politicians pleaded with her husband not to run against the official Labour candidate in Blaenau Gwent.

"There was pressure put on him. He had quite a number of phone calls from high-ranking politicians not to do it, he would be silly to do it, there was no way that he would win," she said. "I believe even a peerage at one time was thrown in the air because I laughed about it, 'Oh, Lady Trish am I'?"

She added that she thought the offer from "a very high-ranking politician" was serious but "Peter couldn't be bought".

A police spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the allegation made to the media suggesting the Labour Party offered Peter Law a peerage if he refused to stand as an independent. We will be reviewing that allegation." Offers of peerages are commonly made before general elections, but the usual pattern is that an elderly MP in a safe seat is induced to stand aside so someone younger and loyal to the leader can be eased into the Commons.

Sir Ray Powell, the long-serving Labour MP for Ogmore, in Wales, claimed after the 1997 general election that he had turned down an offer of a peerage made by party officials hunting for a safe Welsh seat to reward Alan Howarth, who had claimed a footnote in history by being the first sitting Tory MP to defect to Labour.

When Sir Ray refused, another Welsh MP, Roy Hughes, offered his seat, securing a life peerage in return. But offering a peerage to someone as an inducement not to run against a Labour candidate is more serious, because it could be interpreted as a breach of a law dating from 1925 banning the sale of honours.

This month Maggie Jones, who as Labour's official candidate was defeated by Mr Law in the last general election, was awarded a peerage.

How the deal works

* John Gilbert, MP for Dudley North, became Lord Gilbert. His seat was to go to Tony Blair's former flatmate, Charles Falconer, but the local party objected because he sent his children to private school. The seat went to another lawyer, Ross Cranston. Mr Falconer is now Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Lord Chancellor.

* Stuart Randall, the obscure backbench Labour MP for Hull West, became Lord Randall. His seat went to the postal union leader, Alan Johnson, now a cabinet minister.

* David Clark, MP for South Shields and a former cabinet minister, became Lord Clark. His seat went to the head of the No 10 Policy Unit, David Miliband, now a cabinet minister.