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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK

UK Politics

Benn attacks 'President Blair'

Tony Benn calls on MPs to refound the Labour Party

Veteran Labour backbencher Tony Benn has accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of attempting to dismantle democracy by assuming presidential-style powers.

Writing in Tribune magazine, Mr Benn said new Labour was undermining party activism and was trying to reconstruct the UK's system of government.

He said: "The prime minister has assumed the power of a president, using the royal prerogatives that have survived since the middle ages, his huge parliamentary majority and his tight control of the Labour Party machine to be sure that he always gets his way."

Party machine

Mr Benn, 74, who is MP for Chesterfield, has said he will stand down from Parliament at the next general election.

In the article, he accused the prime minister of destroying the traditions of the Labour Party and called on Labour MPs to "refound" the party on its original principles.

[ image: Tony Blair:
Tony Blair: "Always gets his way"
He said: "The cabinet no longer debates, discusses or decides government policy.

"Members of Parliament get their orders from the party machine and if the whips report unfavourably on their conduct it could lead to their removal as candidates at the next general election.

"The Labour Party conference has been converted into a rally to provide a platform for the leadership and the National Policy Forum has become a device to prevent real issues from coming to conference to decide."

Mr Benn continued by saying: "This is only the beginning of the process of dismantling democracy in Britain."

He described the handing over of control of interest rates to the Bank of England as a "preparation for giving control of the UK's economy to the European Central Bank".

Mr Blair could "demand that all future Labour MPs pledge their support for key issues such as the euro or risk expulsion", he added.

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