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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 16:32 GMT
Life beyond Labour
Dennis Canavan
Dennis Canavan: Told he "wasn't good enough" for Labour
They have seen it all before in Falkirk West.

Last April, furious at the Labour leadership's insistence that he was "not good enough" to stand as a candidate in the elections to the Scottish Parliament, Dennis Canavan decided to go it alone.

The long-serving MP was thrown out of the Labour Party when he stood against the party's official candidate, Ross Martin.

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone: Faces expulsion from Labour
That is the fate now awaiting Ken Livingstone after his decision to stand as an independent in the elections for London mayor.

Mr Canavan MP told BBC News Online: "Ken Livingstone is right to go for it, and I think he will win the mayoralty.

"There's no doubt that Labour Party headquarters will spend a fortune trying to stop him - they spent a small fortune trying to stop me and they'll spend an even bigger one trying to stop him.

"But I think the people will see through it."

Although the party says it will not expel Mr Livingstone until he hands in nomination papers, it seems unlikely that the Brent East MP will be a Labour member for much longer.

'Smear and discredit him'

Mr Canavan also predicted that dirty tricks were likely to be used against Mr Livingstone.

"I think it will be the toughest campaign Ken Livingstone's ever had, and probably the dirtiest," he said.

" They'll dig up anything they can from his past in an attempt to smear and discredit him.

"But I think such negative campaigning will backfire on the party and the people of London will see through it. They will recognise that he has been the victim of a corrupt selection system."

In his case, Mr Canavan had denounced the Labour leadership as "control freaks" - and was particularly enraged at the refusal to let him stand because he had retained his Falkirk West seat at the general election with a majority of 14,000.

His decision to stand as an independent against the official Labour candidate meant his automatic expulsion.

And that is what will happen to Mr Livingstone unless he changes his mind before 3 April.

Blair warning

In 1989, Scottish Labour activist Tommy Sheridan - and a close ally of Mr Canavan's - was expelled from the party for leading a poll tax non-payment campaign. He was also elected to the Scottish Parliament last May.

London Mayor
In 1998, two Labour MEPs, Ken Coates and Hugh Kerr, were expelled from the Labour Party in Europe after allying with the Greens.

And in December 1991 two then Labour MPs Dave Nellist (Coventry South-East) and Terry Fields (Liverpool Broad Green) were expelled within two days of each other for allegedly supporting the Trotskyite Militant Tendency.

In July 1996, 10 months before the last general election, Tony Blair warned rebel Labour MPs of a tough disciplinary crackdown on rebels, after some backbenchers had accused the whips of "rigging" the elections to the shadow cabinet.

The mass defections from the Labour Party to the now defunct SDP in the early 1980s would have meant automatic expulsion except that in most cases those who left the party had almost certainly resigned before they could be booted out.

Labour insiders say that even if Mr Livingstone now retracted, he would almost certainly have to appear before the National Constitutional Committee, the party's disciplinary body, because of "the damage he has already caused".

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See also:

06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone to run for mayor
06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone: An issue of principle
06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Ken Livingstone: Rebel with a cause
06 Mar 00 |  UK Politics
Livingstone campaign: Full reaction
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