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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Blair agent suspended for threat
John Burton
Mr Burton had been Tony Blair's constituency agent in 1983
Tony Blair's former agent has been suspended as a councillor for a month, for threatening a Labour colleague.

John Burton, 67, was reported to the Standards Board for England following an outburst at Sedgefield Borough Council in October 2006.

A tribunal heard that he had warned Kester Noble he would be deselected if he did not back a 20m housing scheme.

The hearing was told it was a "one-off event in an otherwise exemplary political career".

Mr Burton, who was the former PM's constituency agent from 1983 until Mr Blair stepped down as an MP this summer, was reported after his comments were overheard by another councillor.

Putting pressure

The Adjudication Panel for England, meeting in Darlington on Tuesday, heard that Mr Burton had sworn at fellow Labour councillor Mr Noble, and told him he was putting pressure on him.

"[The application] is good for the village. It's what the people want and there's an election coming," he told Mr Noble.

The tribunal heard the planning application, for 112 homes on land outside Trimdon, was rejected by 23 votes to four - Mr Noble was among those who opposed it.

Mr Burton left the meeting before the vote - after declaring an interest as a member of Trimdon Parish Council and the Trimdon 2000 community project.

In March, Mr Noble was deselected as a Labour candidate for the Old Trimdon and Fishburn ward.

The adjudication panel rejected accusations that Mr Burton had broken the code of conduct by speaking in favour of an application in which he had an interest, and also rejected any suggestion he had been responsible for Mr Noble's deselection.

But it found that the threats and offensive language used by Mr Burton had brought his office into disrepute and did breach the code of conduct.

The month-long suspension begins immediately. Mr Burton said he did not want to comment on the ruling.

SEE ALSO
Sedgefield's decade in the limelight
20 Jun 07 |  UK Politics
The Tony Blair story
10 May 07 |  UK Politics

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