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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
Peter Law, rebel who had a cause
David Williams
By David Williams
BBC Wales political editor

Peter Law
Peter Law 'walked on politicial water' in the 2005 election
Peter Law, aged 58, was a most unlikely rebel.

The people loved him. The Labour Party came to loathe him.

Once he had been the darling of Valleys Labour, fighting for the party's socialist values in an area where the hallowed names of Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot reverberated.

His proudest moment was his ministerial appointment to Alun Michael's first Labour government in the national assembly.

But all that was to change. Alun Michael resigned; a minority government was replaced by a coalition pact with the Liberal Democrats and Rhodri Morgan, the new first minister, sacked Peter Law.

The bitterness and hurt which that caused is the key to what happened subsequently.

Peter Law once told me that if he had been supported by Labour in his attempt to be the deputy presiding officer in the assembly - a kind of consolation prize for his demotion - things may have turned out very differently.

He has finally lost the last battle but to the end he continued to enjoy above all else - the support of the people of Blaenau Gwent
It wasn't to be. Peter Law was a rebel looking for a cause and it came when his party decided to impose an all women short list in his constituency of Blaenau Gwent.

It was an issue Peter Law was passionately opposed to and he decided to stand against the party's official candidate Maggie Jones in the 2005 general election.

But he was to pay a heavy personal price for that decision.The Labour Party has never forgiven him.

His stance, though, touched a rare political nerve - a politician and his people speaking as one. In last year's general election, an adoring electorate swept their rebel hero to a sensational victory in what had been the safest Labour seat in Wales.

The citadel had fallen.

This was drama enough, but the days leading up to this remarkable general election upset were - if it's possible - even more dramatic. This was drama of a different kind. It was very personal and very poignant.

On the very day that Peter Law was to announce that he was standing against his own party he announced instead that he had a brain tumour and was pulling out of the race before it began.

In an emotional and often tearful interview he told me that his medical condition meant that he had to go into hospital immediately and undergo surgery.

At the time - 6 April 2005 - I wrote: "What should have been the story of the general election campaign in Wales had ended before it began."

Peter Law
Peter Law with his wife Trish on their way to Westminster

Within a couple of weeks I was writing another story - the remarkable story of Peter Law's comeback.

Against all the odds he had made a swift recovery from his operation to remove a brain tumour and had decided that he would, after all, be standing as an independent candidate in the general election.

The announcement sent a shiver down the Labour Party spine. The party had not understood Peter Law's enormous determination and resilience. His popularity - already reaching adulation proportions - was further enhanced by his decision to stand.

The Labour Party and its candidate were doomed. Peter Law was walking on political water and he walked straight into parliament with a thumping majority of just over 9,000.

He also retained his assembly seat which, at a stroke, denied the Labour government in Cardiff Bay its majority of one. The potential for political mischief by the opposition parties was quickly realised and Peter Law was soon in the vanguard of campaigns to defeat his old party.

You couldn't help feeling that Peter Law enjoyed those moments very much, but they only served to heighten the animosity some in the Labour Party felt towards their former colleague.

Peter Law was fighting against his old party, but in doing so he was fighting his own demons.

More recently he had, once again, been fighting for his health and for his life. Now he has finally lost the last battle but to the end he continued to enjoy above all else - the support of the people of Blaenau Gwent.

Before he died he heard that the Labour Party had decided not to use an all woman shortlist to select its next parliamentary candidate.

And Maggie Jones? Well, she has been given a peerage!

Peter Law died believing he was right all along.


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