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Falkirk West MP MSP Dennis Canavan
"It's as if the party leadership is pretending I don't exist"
 real 28k

Political correspondent Elizabeth Quigley
"Mr Canavan is living up to his reputation as a thorn in Labour's side"
 real 56k

Monday, 2 October, 2000, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Labour positive over by-election
Dennis Canavan and Liz Quigley
Dennis Canavan says his overtures were rebuffed
Labour is sending out an upbeat message as it faces an awkward by-election caused by the resignation of Dennis Canavan as MP for Falkirk West.

Mr Canavan, who has a majority of almost 14,000, will remain as the only independent member of the Scottish Parliament.

He said his decision had been prompted by "Labour's arrogance and intransigence".

The MP's announcement came as a System Three poll for The Herald newspaper suggested a big drop in support for Labour in Scotland.

We hope to persuade the people of Falkirk West that they should elect a Labour successor

Scotland Office minister Brian Wilson
The party lost 12 points since last month in the survey of Westminster voting intentions, while the Scottish National Party went up by five.

Scotland Office minister Brian Wilson said: "Clearly this is a decision for Dennis, but people are entitled to ask why he has chosen to go at this particular time.

"No doubt the voters in Falkirk West will have a view on that.

"The Labour Party has given Dennis Canavan 26 years as an MP and we hope to persuade the people of Falkirk West that they should elect a Labour successor."

Speaking at a news conference in Falkirk, Mr Canavan was sympathetic to the concept of Scottish independence.

"I take the view that people in Scotland, like the people of any nation, are as entitled to as much determination as they want," he said.

"I think the consensus among the majority, at present, is they would like to retain social and economic links with their closest neighbours.

Ballot paper
Mr Canavan holds a 14,000 majority
"But I don't lose any sleep about the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent nation state, provided the people of Scotland are not bounced into it.

"I think there are pros and cons and there should be a healthy debate about these matters.

"But ultimately if you believe in the sovereignty of the people of Scotland, as I do, it's up to the people to decide."

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Canavan said he would not be campaigning on behalf of the Labour candidate in the by-election.

Expelled from party

Mr Canavan won his Westminster seat under Labour's banner in 1997.

But he was excluded from Labour's candidate list for the Scottish parliamentary elections and stood as an independent against an official party candidate.

He won an overwhelming victory but was automatically expelled from the Labour Party as a result.

Mr Canavan said he had made every effort to seek a reconciliation with Labour but had been rebuffed at the very highest levels.

He will quit his Westminster seat at the end of this month, landing Labour with a tough by-election at a time when polls suggest it is struggling to retain its general election popularity.

Mr Canavan said he had delayed his decision until the local Labour party had had an opportunity to select a candidate.

Just after my victory speech after the count last year I expressed a hope that there might be some kind of reconciliation.

Dennis Canavan
Mr Canavan said: "My own inclination was to give up my Westminster seat sooner rather than later but I was persuaded to hang on to give the members of Falkirk West constituency party the opportunity for a fair selection process to choose another candidate, which has now been done.

"I've attempted to build bridges. Just after my victory speech after the count last year I expressed a hope that there might be some kind of reconciliation.

"I think that in retrospect now that is a forlorn hope as long as the present leadership continues its arrogance and intransigence."

Asked about whether he would campaign for the official Labour candidate in a by-election, Mr Canavan said: "At this stage my intention is to remain neutral.

"I think the Labour Party leadership - and I make a distinction between the Labour Party leadership and the party at local level - has let down the constituency Labour Party and I also think they have let down the constituents of Falkirk West constituency.

"I thought that by this time the Labour Party leadership would have learned some lessons, not only from the people of Falkirk West, but also from the people of Wales and people of London who gave similar verdicts on the ballot rigging attempts to stop Rhodri Morgan and Ken Livingstone.

"There are no signs that any lessons have been learned."

  • General election results in 1997: Labour majority 13,783 (35.92%). Turnout 38,370 (72.60%). Canavan (Labour) 22,772 (59.35%); Alexander (SNP) 8,989 (23.43%); Buchanan (C) 4,639 (12.09%); Houston (LD) 1,970 (5.13%)

  • Scottish Parliament elections 1999: Mr Canavan's majority 12,192 (36.21%) Dennis Canavan (Falkirk W) 18,511 (54.98%) Ross Martin (Lab) 6,319 (18.77%) Michael Matheson (SNP) 5,986 (17.78%).

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See also:

06 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Life beyond Labour
01 Jun 99 | UK Politics
Canavan snubs Labour cash demand
10 May 99 | UK Politics
Canavan 'wins support' for return
07 May 99 | UK Politics
Canavan and the 'control freaks'
07 May 99 | News
Canavan's unhappy divorce
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