'Unfair' campaign help for Dobson

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Indy Politics

By Jo Dillon

By Jo Dillon

07 November 1999

Frank Dobson's campaign to secure Labour's nomination to run as London Mayor was yesterday embroiled in a fresh scandal after allegations that the ex-Health Secretary had been given an unfair advantage over his rivals.

A Dobson supporter claimed that on 9 October he saw on a computer screen in Mr Dobson's campaign headquarters a list of party members, which he claimed was a centrally held list of Labour's London membership. Under Labour Party rules, no candidate is allowed access to central lists and Millbank officials deny supplying them to Mr Dobson's campaign.

Paul Lettan, who had been working in the Dobson campaign HQ, yesterday told the BBC: "It was definitely the Labour membership mailing list. It has a particular screen and it says at the top 'Labour Party Membership List'.

"At the time I didn't think anything of it, it was only a few days later when I heard that Glenda Jackson and Ken Livingstone didn't have the membership list that I realised. I certainly want Frank Dobson to be the Mayor of London.

"I don't believe Frank Dobson had anything to do with this. It's the kind of thing that goes on at a much lower level, where you get young, enthusiastic supporters who possibly get carried away. But I certainly think that it's wrong. I certainly think it's immoral."

Yesterday, Mr Dobson's campaign manager, the Greenwich MP Nick Raynsford, said that the lists, used for a mail shot of 68,000 Labour members, did not come from Labour HQ, but from individual MPs and MEPs. But the latest allegations left Labour facing an embarrassing investigation into claims that they might have been supplied illegally.

Mr Raynsford insisted that nothing unlawful had happened and stressed it was incorrect to suggest that lists had been made available to Mr Dobsonbut not to rivals Glenda Jackson and Ken Livingstone. The details are available to MPs, MEPs, candidates for the Greater London Assembly, constituency secretaries, branch secretaries and membership secretaries.

Mr Raynsford added: "If those individuals are sympathetic to a particular campaign, they can make their list available to that campaign. If they choose to pass that list on within the Labour Party ... to a campaign, my advice is that that is entirely within the terms of the Labour Party data protection registration."

But a spokesman for Ms Jackson said yesterday: "Mr Raynsford's explanation doesn't hold water. Both Glenda Jackson and Ken Livingstone are members of the Parliamentary Labour Party but Glenda was specifically told by Millbank officials that the central membership list would not be made available to her or her campaign."

Ms Jackson herself made it clear that no one in her constituency party had handed over her membership list.

"No one approached me for those lists, to my knowledge no one approached any official in my party or anyone else within the party and yet those lists were furnished. What is disturbing is ... that someone has been able to access, it would appear, the central computer," she said.

The former transport minister added that no one was "more open, honest and decent" than Mr Dobson but said the suggestions of "dirty work at the crossroads" reflected badly on the party.

Labour insisted that no centrally held records had been sent to any candidate. "I am confident that the Labour Party centrally has not provided lists or records to any candidate," a spokesman said.