Republicans ban Brit pol

Despite Blair support in Iraq war, GOP won't let Labour official on convention floor.

Published July 29, 2004 2:06PM (EDT)

The Republican party in America has barred a Labour MP from the floor of its convention, allegedly on the grounds that he is not sufficiently conservative.

The excluded Alan Williams, a veteran Welsh MP and member of the liaison committee of MPs, said last night that the same problem had occurred four years ago at the previous convention, although a last-minute deal then had given him access to the floor as a member of an all-party British delegation. Last night he said that no compromise had been possible this time: a shame given the considerable support the prime minister, Tony Blair, had given the Bush administration on Iraq.

"We are far from pleased," he said. "I find it singularly strange that Labour MPs can be welcomed on the floor of Congress but not at the Republican convention."

In contrast to the previous occasion, he said, "they refused to budge".

"They said they didn't want any politician who wasn't a conservative on the floor of the convention centre."

A Republican party spokesman said no slight had been intended, and that the issue had merely revolved around the need to keep numbers on the floor of the conference down.

Mr Bush has given the British prime minster huge personal praise for his role in the Iraq war, calling Mr Blair a "stand up guy".

But the mutual personal admiration between Mr Bush and Mr Blair does not readily extend to the political parties they lead.

Some Labour MPs are annoyed that the Liberal Democrats are making more of a showing at the Democratic convention in Boston than Labour.

A senior Labour strategist and minister, Douglas Alexander, is there, but no cabinet minister is attending.

The leader of the Commons, Peter Hain, will visit the Kerry campaign headquarters soon, but this is apparently in a private capacity, and he is not eager to discuss his visit.

By Patrick Wintour

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