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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 17:58 GMT
Chief whip's actions 'contemptible'
Paul Marsden
Mr Marsden will meet Hilary Armstrong on Monday
A Labour MP, who branded backbench colleagues "thugs", has accused Tony Blair of staging a "kangaroo court" to drum him out of the party.

Mr Marsden has been summoned before the government chief whip, Hilary Armstrong, to explain comments he made about fellow Labour MPs.

Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Paul Marsden claimed fellow MPs verbally and physically "attacked" him during a debate because of his criticism of the war against Afghanistan and anti-terrorism measures.

The claims have been denied and the chief whip said it was her responsibility to investigate the matter.

Allegations denied

Ms Armstrong will also ask him if he intends to adhere to a Labour Party code preventing MPs launching personal attacks on their colleagues.

Following the alleged attack Mr Marsden issued a press release entitled "Labour thugs attack MP" and wrote to Tony Blair demanding action to stop the intimidation.

Hilary Armstrong
Ms Armstrong has clashed with Mr Marsden
On Friday the Labour Party said Ms Armstrong had written to the Shropshire MP stating there had been a number of complaints about the press release and that the allegations had been strongly denied.

The Labour Party statement said: "In her letter, the chief whip made clear that she has a responsibility to investigate these complaints about Mr Marsden's press release and in line with the procedures of the Parliamentary Labour Party, make a report to Labour's Parliamentary Committee.

"The chief whip has therefore requested a meeting with Paul Marsden on Monday."

Mr Marsden said: "I am incensed that Hilary Armstrong and her lackeys have now said that they are not investigating my allegations of being physically and verbally abused, they are investigating me for sending out a press release.

'Attack poodles'

"I find it utterly contemptible and deeply worrying. I despair of New Labour that the Prime Minister has still not had the courtesy to acknowledge my letter.

"He has decided instead that he will send out one of his attack poodles and get me into some sort of kangaroo court to tell me I shouldn't be talking to the press. It's quite clear they want me out of the party.

"This dangerous New Labour clique feel they can stamp out all dissent and can drive out anybody who dares to have a different opinion from the God-like Prime Minister. It just shows what a lousy leader he has become."

There were signs tonight that Mr Marsden may be losing support in his constituency party, as its president asked him for assurances about his future intentions, amid rumours that he is planning to join the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Marsden said he had no desire to leave the party, but added: "I'm afraid New Labour is walking away from me and from very basic democratic values."

See also:

05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Colleagues 'attacked' me, says MP
22 Oct 01 | UK Politics
No 10: War dissenters free to speak
12 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Rebel MP attacks anti-terror laws
22 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Young pretender to awkward squad
05 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Rebel MP visits refugee camps
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