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Friday, October 24, 1997

Despatches: Europe

Labour Meps Suspended

BBC Correspondent: Tim Franks

The governing British Labour party has suspended four of its European Members of Parliament. The four MEPs refused to sign an internal party Code of Practice. They objected to the Labour government's introduction of proportional representation in the next European elections. Our political corresondent Tim Franks reports.

"This move is unprecedented, but not unexpected. The Labour party has, in recent years, built a fearsome reputation for internal discipline. To go against the leadership line is to risk exile. Today four members of the European Parliament were deemed to have stepped over the line by refusing to sign a new code of practice. Labour's European parliamentary manager, Simon Murphy, explained.

Those members have failed to give me the guarantee and accordingly and as indicated in my original letter to them, disciplinary action has been commenced and they are suspended from the privileges of membership of the European Parliamentary Labour party.

The four -- Ken Coates, Hugh Kerr, Alex Falconer and Michael Hindley -- arguethat the government is wrong to change the voting system for elections to the European parliament. Ken Coates said that proportional representation rob voters the chance to choose one particular member of parliament.

They won't vote for any individual people, they will be asked to pick a party which will then, according to its own mechanisms, decide who has won the election.

And that in turn could well mean that these four rebels find themselves at the bottom of the list of preferred Labour candidates. The MEPs say that democracy is at stake. In private, the Labour leadership says the four are unreconstructed and unrepresentative. And, as has become usual practice, the Labour leadership is winning."

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