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Norwich anger over Labour star chamber

PUBLISHED: 09:23 04 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:55 06 July 2010

Grassroots Labour activists are on the verge of revolt over the controversial ruling by Gordon Brown's 'star chamber' to de-select Norwich North MP Ian Gibson.

Grassroots Labour activists are on the verge of revolt over the controversial ruling by Gordon Brown's 'star chamber' to de-select Norwich North MP Ian Gibson.

Labour is on the verge of a hammering in today's local and European election with fears they could be pushed into third place in the Norfolk County Council poll.

And campaigners, many of whom are fighting for re-election in the county council elections today, have been left sickened by the treatment meted out to the Norwich North MP - who was stripped of his right to stand as a Labour candidate at the next general election.

Dr Gibson has been in the firing line after it emerged that he had allowed his daughter and her partner to live with him rent free in his taxpayer funded London flat before selling it to her at a knockdown price.

Last night the MP issued a statement through his office saying that he would break his silence over the issue tomorrow, but did not want to say anything until after today's elections.

But his local party is awash with rumours of resignations in protest at the decision while some are also checking the legality of the ruling, though there is little sign of a campaign to persuade him to fight on as an independent.

Martin Booth, president of Norwich Labour Party said the MP was taking stock of his options.

“He has got to get his thoughts together because we did not expect to lose,” he said. “It was not a star chamber, it was a kangaroo court. I just felt they wanted to make an example of him.”

Sue Whitaker, leader of the county council Labour group said she could not believe the decision.

“I'm disgusted with the way he has been treated,” she said. “A lot of people will resign from the party and say enough is enough, it's not the Labour Party they joined.

“When you look at some of the others who are still there sitting pretty you can see how he has been made an example of.

“He has been a thorn in the side, like a proper MP should be, and I think the NEC have been looking for an excuse to get rid of him.

People in Norwich North who aren't natural Labour supporters recognise what a good constituency MP he is. They have taken absolutely no notice whatsoever of what local people have said.

Peter Harwood, a leading Norwich Labour Party figure, who is also seeking re-election today, hinted that the local party is looking to see if it can ignore the star chamber ruling.

“I wouldn't mind betting somebody is checking that out,” he said. “We have already adopted him and there will be questions about the legitimacy of it. We could take it as advice as opposed to being mandatory.

“We are a funny old branch in Norwich. We don't do being imposed on and we like to be involved in our own decisions.

“Most people are shocked and there have been threats of resignation,” he said.

But Barbara Lashley, another Labour activist in Norwich North, and county council candidate, said she wanted to wait and see what the basis of the decision was before making up her mind.

“Until I've heard more explanation of what the ruling was and what the reasons and until I know the full facts and have heard more explanation of what the ruling was and what the reasons were, it isn't fair to say whether it's the right decision or not,” she said.

“I think Ian Gibson has been an excellent constituency MP and has served the people of Norwich North really well. It's a real loss. At the moment I don't have a view on it. I've got the local election and that's where my concentration is at the moment.”

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