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banner Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 14:01 GMT
McConnell admits cash request
Jack McConnell
Mr McConnell admitted to having an affair
Scottish Labour has confirmed that leader-elect Jack McConnell did appeal to MPs for cash to help pay the wages of the woman he had an affair with.

Labour has admitted that the request was made but insisted it came from the party as a whole.

It has been revealed that letters asking for the cash were signed by Jack McConnell, who was Scottish party general secretary at the time.

Any appointments are made by a fair and open selection procedure which conforms to equal opportunity and other personnel selection methods

Bob Thomson, party treasurer
Mr McConnell, who is education minister, is poised to succeed Henry McLeish as Scottish party leader and first minister.

On Tuesday, the former teacher admitted to having had an affair with a Labour party worker about seven years ago.

Mr McConnell appeared at a media conference with his wife in an attempt to clear the path for his nomination and see off controversy over his past.

Former party leader and first minister Henry McLeish had resigned over allegations surrounding his expenses.

It has now emerged that in the early 1990s, MPs were asked to give 100 each to help pay the wages of Mr McConnell's ex-lover, who was a Labour Party press officer.

The row centres around a levy of MPs
Independent MSP Dennis Canavan, who was a Labour MP at the time, said the request was made in a letter signed by Mr McConnell and he felt under pressure to pay up.

He said: "I can well understand some of my erstwhile colleagues at Westminster feeling a bit concerned that perhaps they were pressurised or duped into paying what amounted to a job creation scheme for the general secretary's girlfriend."

The Daily Record newspaper said four unnamed MPs confirmed that they received a letter asking them to pay the woman's wages and two of the MPs said they were unaware that the couple had a relationship.

The paper said Mr McConnell also appeared at Westminster in person, with the woman at his side, to appeal for money.

Such levies of MPs and MSPs are standard practice in parties and Labour sources said most of the money in this case was raised from MEPs and from the European Information Fund in preparation for Euro elections in 1994.

'Open selection'

Labour's treasurer, Bob Thomson, said the appointment of the woman was not in the gift of the general secretary.

He said: "Any appointments are made by a fair and open selection procedure which conforms to equal opportunity and other personnel selection methods.

Mr McConnell's aide, Andy Kerr, MSP, said: "This is of no relevance to Scotland, of no relevance to the policies Jack McConnell wants to implement hopefully as first minister.

Dennis Canavan
Concerns over levy of MPs
"I think we want to move and I think the media needs to move on and the people want us to move on."

Meanwhile, the woman who was identified as having had the affair has made a plea for privacy.

She issued a statement on Thursday saying: "I did not intend to comment on this matter, but intolerable harassment over the last few days of my friends and family, including the parents of my late husband who was killed in a motor cycle accident last year, only 18 months after our marriage, has compelled me for their sakes to say the following.

"Well after I had separated from my then husband, I formed a relationship with Jack McConnell. It ended seven years ago, and I deeply regret the hurt it caused to all concerned.

"I also regret the invasion of my privacy at a time when I am still grieving the death of my husband.

"I fully accept that the freedom of the press is an essential pillar of a modern democracy, but with that freedom comes responsibility.

"The individual has a right to privacy. I would therefore ask the media and everyone else to please now respect what remains of my privacy."

Downing Street has refused to comment on the controversy.

Andy Kerr MSP
"This was a common practice, we did this quite a lot. It was an agreed form of payment"
Brian Taylor reports
"Dennis Canavan recalls there was unease"
See also:

14 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Date set for Labour leader vote
13 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
McConnell alone in leadership fight
10 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Deacon rules herself out of contest
09 Nov 01 | Scotland
Search begins for new first minister
11 Nov 01 | McLeish resignation
Trade union warns leadership hopefuls
Links to more McLeish resignation stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more McLeish resignation stories