by RenÃ© Lavanchy
A REBELLIOUS Labour MP who has just lost a re-selection battle has quit the party to stand as an independent at the next general election.
Bob Wareing, MP for Liverpool West Derby since 1983, has attacked the Labour Party as â€œright-wingâ€ and accused â€œthe powers that beâ€ of engineering the selection of Stephen Twigg, the ex-MP and former schools minister, as his successor.
Mr Wareing told Tribune it had been a difficult decision to leave after 60 years, â€œbut it’s probably easier now because the Labour Party is no longer the party of the working peopleâ€.
â€œWe’ve converted Britain to an American system. Modern Labour is to the right of the Democrats. I’m a left-wing MP with a right-wing party.â€
During the shortlisting process for selection, Mr Wareing claims, trade unions behaved improperly to keep him off the shortlist.
Five branches of Unite Amicus sent in ballot papers in his favour, before contacting the procedures secretary and saying there had been a mistake. They then re-sent the papers, now against Mr Wareing.
Despite the votes, he went on to be shortlisted, only to lose to Mr Twigg in Sunday’s re-selection ballot.
The 77-year-old MP, a member of Labour’s Socialist Campaign Group, has voted against the Government more than 200 times since 1997. He has been nicknamed â€œSerbian Bobâ€ for his support of the country, and voted against Nato intervention in Kosovo in 1999.
Explaining his decision to stand independently, Mr Wareing said: â€œWhat do they really think the people in West Derby want me to do? To vote for the Iraq war? To vote for tuition fees for students? To vote for privatisation? Never.â€
â€œIt’s best to put it to the people of West Derby. Why should I be removed by a small cabal?â€
Asked if he would have left Labour soon anyway, he said: â€œI probably wouldâ€, adding that several local party officials were also leaving.
Mr Wareing claims Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward lent Mr Twigg a chauffeur-driven car, but Mr Twigg told Tribune he had merely been given lifts by
one of Mr Woodwardâ€™s aides for one day. His campaign had been â€œall my workâ€, he added.
Joe Anderson, leader of Liverpool Labour Party, welcomed Mr Twiggâ€™s selection: â€œHeâ€™s gone through a democratic process. I would be happy to have… any of the candidates if theyâ€™d been elected through a democratic process.â€
He said he was â€œsatisfiedâ€ with explanations the unions had given for their spoilt ballots, adding: â€œIf Bob didnâ€™t [have faith in the procedure], maybe he shouldn’t have participated in the process.â€
Mr Anderson also said many disgruntled party members were related to a councillor being expelled from the party for misconduct.
David Minahan, Amicus branch secretary, has denied any impropriety, saying the unionâ€™s rules obliged it to cast a block vote.