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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Local party says no to male ban
View of industrial Blaenau Gwent
The Blaenau Gwent constituency is an industrial heartland
Labour members in one of the party's strongholds have rejected plans for an all-woman shortlist to choose their next parliamentary candidate.

Grassroots members in Blaenau Gwent reinforced their opposition to proposals to bar men from the selection process.

Local party chairman David Davies revealed after the meeting on Tuesday that members would not take any part in the policy.

There were 65 members present at the meeting and the majority voted to oppose the idea.

The current MP, Llew Smith, who will stand down at the next election, has been a strong opponent of the policy, as has local assembly member Peter Law.

Mr Law said he was "very pleased" at the decision.

He had warned in the past that he could stand as an independent against the official Labour candidate if the policy goes ahead.

But, speaking to BBC Radio Wales about whether he would now go ahead, he said : "That's to be seen. I said I would consider this in the future and I haven't withdrawn from this threat. It's a matter of self-respect and dignity. We will see what happens in the future."

Peter Law
AM Peter Law says Blaenau Gwent is being used as an experiment

Members of the local constituency party - which has about 90 members - met at Ebbw Vale to discuss their response.

The seat, which has been held by big party names Anuerin Bevan and Michael Foot, is one of Labour's strongest in Britain, and Mr Smith has a majority of almost 20,000.

The Welsh Labour executive has said it is implementing a policy backed by the party conference. There will be a similar women-only shortlist rule in Swansea East, where MP Donald Anderson is also standing down.

Labour argues that it needs to increase the number of women MPs. There are currently four female MPs in Wales out of 40.

But Mr Law, who has been the local AM since the Welsh assembly was founded four years ago, said: "I think there's great resentment because the constituency is being used for an experiment."

'Not heavy-handed'

"You have got control freaks and spin doctors in the Labour party who are saying 'You will do it this way' - and they have not taken into account the self-respect and dignity of Blaenau Gwent."

Party officials have denied they are acting in a heavy-handed way.

Assembly government cabinet member Carwyn Jones said it was not being imposed from somewhere on high, but was a result of the democratic decision of the party conference.

Wales Office Minister Don Touhig, who represents nearby Islwyn, has also voiced his opposition to an all-women shortlist in Blaenau Gwent.

But he conceded that the Welsh Labour Party had acted properly, and that the Welsh executive had no choice but to follow rules passed at conference at a UK level.

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