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Thursday, September 29, 2005 

New Labour, no dissent.

There are some things you don't expect to happen, even at a Labour conference where the motto seems to be "don't mention the war". The sight of 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang being forcibly ejected for daring to heckle Jack Straw during a small mention of the Iraq war was one thing I genuinely did not expect even Labour to sink to.

Then again, this is from a party that over the last few years has expelled numerous members and even an MP for going off message. George Galloway was expelled for allegedly telling British soldiers to disobey illegal orders. In Blaenau Gwent, where life-long party member Peter Law stood against Labour after an all-woman shortlist was imposed, and a Blairite was parachuted in as the party's candidate, many members were expelled for supporting him. More recently other members have been threatened for tactically supporting Liberal Democrats in constituencies where Labour could not win, despite numerous columnists and the Guardian supporting tactical voting.

There still is dissent in the Labour party. Not all MPs are there to become government ministers to further their careers. The Campaign group is still vocal, despite its old-lefty image. However, as more groomed Blairites appear to be dropped onto constituencies whether they want them or not, Labour cannot pretend that it does not have problems with internal dissent.

Let's face it. Labour is and always has been governed by control freaks. One of the things Blair's reign will be remembered for will be spin, especially the David Kelly affair. If Labour wants to make the public believe that they are actually listening, the least they could do is actually start some proper debates within the party about what the post-Blair party really should look like. At the moment, the party is just heading for more of the same. If Brown cannot excite the party, what chance has he of gaining the public's trust?

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