UK Labour suspends four

The Independent reports:

LONDON – Three former Cabinet ministers were suspended from the Labour Party yesterday over accusations they were ready to use their position to influence Government policy in return for money.

Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon had the parliamentary whip removed from them by party chiefs after being caught on camera by an undercover television investigation into lobbying by politicians.

The “cash for access” storm, which has overshadowed Labour’s election preparations, took a dramatic turn after the programme was broadcast yesterday.

The Labour Chief Whip, Nick Brown, and the party’s general secretary, Ray Collins, ordered their suspension pending a full investigation into the claims. Margaret Moran, the MP for Luton South, who featured in the programme, was also suspended by the party.

Three of the four MPs suspended are not obscure Backbenchers, but were high profile Secretaries of State.

Byers under Blair was Treasury Chief Secretary, and then Trade & Industry, Transport and Local Government Ministers. His former political advisor is the notorious Jo Moore who on 11 September 2001 sent out an e-mail advising people it was a good day to bury bad news stories.

Patricia Hewitt replaced Byers as Secretary of State for T&I and then became Health Secretary.

Geoff Hoon served under both Blair and Brown with portfolios ranging from Defence Secretary to Leader of the House, to Transport Secretary.

All three are high profile members of – not quite household names, but very much part of the brand. Hard to see how this will not hurt them in the polls.

One Conservative MP was also stung as agreeing to lobby for money, but he has never held senior role, so most of the focus has been on the ex Ministers.

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