I'm a victim of the smear machine, too, says top Labour MP

Outspoken transport committee chair is 'target'; Sixsmith complains of intimidation; Paddington victims demand to see Labour data files

Colin Brown,Jo Dillon
Thursday 06 February 2014 04:59

One of the most senior Labour backbenchers and a leading critic of the Tony Blair's transport policy today claims she is the latest victim of a government-backed smear campaign to remove her.

Gwyneth Dunwoody today finds herself in the same position as Pam Warren, the leader of the Paddington survivors' group, who forced humiliating apologies from the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues after what appeared to be an attempted smear campaign against them.

In an interview in today's Independent on Sunday, Mrs Dunwoody says she is the target of a whispering campaign for criticising the Government's transport policy and allegedly stabbing Mr Byers in the back. She says: "The criticism seems to be on the level of 'I am deliberately wielding the dagger and I don't understand what's going on'.

"It is the way they work. That is what they did before. This is what they will do again. It tells you more about their deep insecurity than it does about the workings of the transport committee."

Her allegations will dash the Prime Minister's hopes that the Government's apologies would close down the row over the emails seeking political "dirt" on the rail safety campaigners.

Mrs Dunwoody, the respected chairman of the Transport Select Committee, fought off an attempt by the Government a year ago to unseat her after a full-scale Commons revolt by outraged Labour MPs. She is appealing for "independent-minded" MPs to support her again.

Helen Jackson, a Labour member of her committee, who is tipped to replace her, claims Ms Dunwoody allowed the committee to be hijacked by the Tory minority, and used to "rubbish" the Government. She claims members were given only three hours to study 90 pages and propose amendments on the controversial report which led to Mr Byers' resignation.

In a further example of "control freakery", Martin Sixsmith, the press officer earlier forced out by Mr Byers in the row over his special adviser Jo Moore, is claiming he is being pressured to sign a new "gagging clause" to get his £180,000 severance money.

The deadline for the cash to be paid was passed a week ago. The Government want him to extend an earlier agreement that stopped both sides referring to the details of the settlement and the negotiations surrounding them. He is being asked to agree never to say anything about his resignation. Mr Sixsmith has told friends that he has been subject to "intimidation" and a concerted attempt to "make his life a misery".

Meanwhile, Martin Minns, the adviser to the Paddington survivors' group, said he will be demanding the disclosure by Labour of any files held on him under the Data Protection Act after Elizabeth France, the commissioner for information, stepped into the row.

Ms France made it clear that individuals have the right to ask for their files if they believe they are held on Labour's database. Mr Byers' special advisor, Dan Corry, asked Labour Party workers to check out Mr Minns' links to the Tories.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has ordered his officials to go through the department's emails "with a fine toothcomb" to find out whether any more potentially damaging messages remain.

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