Scargill threatens to form breakaway party: NUM chief says Labour reforms may prompt repeat of history. Barrie Clement reports

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ARTHUR SCARGILL yesterday warned Labour leaders that trade unionists may form a breakaway party if John Smith succeeds in abolishing the union block vote.

Mr Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers, said that a number of union leaders who opposed the introduction of one member, one vote into Labour Party democracy had privately backed the idea.

Addressing his union's annual conference in Scarborough yesterday, Mr Scargill cautioned the Labour leader over his attempts to 'diminish the role and influence of trade unions in the party'.

He told the 100 delegates: 'There is a real risk that the trade unions - or some of them - may well decide that it is time to conceive a new party which will give the same unequivocal commitment in Parliament to our class that the Tory party gives to its own.'

Later, he said that several union leaders, whose names he refused to disclose, had discussed an alternative party, 'but not as publicly as I've done today'.

The NUM leader told the conference at the Spar complex that the union intended to continue to play its full industrial and political role within the Labour Party. 'But we must not forget that the party was born out of the British trade union movement and we have every right to expect that the relationship we have enjoyed continues.'

After his speech, he pointed out that unions had parted company with the Liberal Party in 1906 to form the Labour Party, after being the brunt of attacks and criticisms. There would be a real possibility of history repeating itself if Mr Smith persisted with his policy, he said.

Ken Capstick, left-wing Yorkshire area secretary of the NUM, supported the retention of strong union links in the Labour Party. He added, however: 'You can't just take your bat and ball away every time you lose a decision.'

(Photograph omitted)