Leading Article: Blair's loyalty contest

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The Independent Online
LABOUR'S internal elections for its National Executive have long been derided as a beauty contest, but now the spin consultants of Millbank Tower want to turn it into the real thing. Tony Blair's reforms, designed to neuter the party's ruling body - sorry, ensure a constructive and supportive relationship with the Government - will kick MPs off the section elected by ballot of the entire membership.

This will stop Tony Benn's avatar using it as a power base, but might let in a fifth column of Hattersleyites (as Trotskyists are known these days) among the unknowns on the ballot paper.

So, out goes to the call to loyal Blairite actors and pop stars on the membership list to put their names forward. But Mr Blair should beware. Last year's heroes of New Britannia have cooled already, with Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker and Alan McGee all taking shots at Labour policy. Someone should tell the Prime Minister that dissent is like putty: if you press it down at the top it squeezes out somewhere else.

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