Left-winger quits Parliament with snipe at Labour

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Indy Politics

Dennis Canavan, the veteran left-wing MP who was expelled from the Labour party after standing as an independent, has announced his intention to stand down from Westminster.

Dennis Canavan, the veteran left-wing MP who was expelled from the Labour party after standing as an independent, has announced his intention to stand down from Westminster.

Mr Canavan, whose resignation triggers the third by election before Christmas, attacked the party leadership for "arrogance and intransigence" and said that it expected MPs to be slavishly obedient to the party line.

"Every MP is reduced almost to being an obedient puppet, doing what the government whips say," he said.

The left wing MP, who was expelled by the party leadership after successfully standing as an independent for the Scottish Parliament, did not rule out returning to the Labour party, but not while Tony Blair was leader.

"I would not rule out completely the possibility of my re-admission to the Labour Party in the fullness of time," he said. "I think the Labour Party should be a broad enough church to accommodate people like me.

"I'm certainly not going to go crawling on my hands and knees to get re-admitted, or ditch any of the principles and policies on which I fought and won the election. But I take the view that the Labour Party should be big enough and tolerant enough to put up with people who constructively criticise the leadership."

Mr Canavan secured the biggest individual majority in the Scottish Parliamentary elections despite being rejected as a Labour candidate. He has been critical of successive Labour leaderships, and believes that New Labour is out of step with socialist principles.

In addition to Mr Canavan's Falkirk West seat Labour faces a by-elections before Christmas in the West Bromwich West seat of Betty Boothroyd, the retiring speaker, and Audrey Wise, the MP for Preston, who died last month.

Mr Canavan said that "at this stage" he planned to stay neutral in the by-election campaign. But did not rule out criticising the Labour leadership during the campaign. "I will wait and see -- I may have something more to say at a later date. There is only one candidate in the field so far," he said.

He hinted support for the concept of Scottish Independence, which is supported by the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Socialist Party.

"I take the view that people in Scotland, like the people of any nation, are as entitled to as much determination as they want, " he said.

"But I don't lose any sleep about the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent nation state, provided the people of Scotland are not bounced into it. I think there are pros and cons and there should be a healthy debate about these matters. But ultimately if you believe in the sovereignty of the people of Scotland, as I do, it's up to the people to decide."

Mr Canavan's decision to stand down coincides with an opinion poll putting Labour in Scotland at its lowest level in a generation.

A System Three poll for The Herald newspaper yesterday said that the SNP is neck and neck with Labour in elections to Westminister on 33 per cent and has lengthened its lead over Labour in voting intentions for the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Canavan, 58, a former teacher, has represented Falkirk West and the previous seat in that area since 1974.

At the last General Election, he had a majority of more than 13,000 over the SNP.

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