Labour NEC to run Gray's bickering local party

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LABOUR has suspended constituency business in East Lothian because of a row surrounding attempts to deselect the MP Anne Moffat.

The development could potentially be an embarrassment for Labour's newly elected Scottish leader, Iain Gray, who is the MSP for East Lothian.

Members of Labour's National Executive Committee (NEC) are due to visit the constituency next week in a bid to resolve the dispute over Ms Moffat. Until further notice, Scotland's largest constituency party will be run from London.

Ms Moffat was reselected last year despite only two of six branches in the constituency voting for her. She only staved off deselection with the help of the union affiliate votes.

In October 2007, the Scottish Labour general secretary, Lesley Quinn, found anomalies with the selection and said Ms Moffat had failed to respond to constituency officials. It was unclear whether the process could be reopened.

The Scottish Labour Party said: "It is normal that the business being transacted by the local party is suspended pending the dispute being resolved. The Labour Party NEC will now work with the local party to resolve matters amicably."

It is expected a full internal investigation will be carried out by the NEC.

Sources close to Ms Moffat claimed she had been a victim of intense bullying. "There are a bunch of ex-councillors who were turfed out at the last election and they continue to stir trouble," the source said.

Ms Moffat said: "I am unable to comment because it is an internal Labour matter."

Political opponents have described developments as an embarrassment for Mr Gray.

The SNP candidate for East Lothian, Andrew Sharp, said: "They are in chaos. Labour have tied themselves in knots over this, and should be concentrating on doing their jobs, rather than on squabbling amongst themselves."

The Tory Westminster candidate for East Lothian, Michael Veitch, said: "If even Labour HQ has no faith in the ability of the local Labour party to carry on, what does that say about their ability to represent the people of East Lothian, who frankly deserve better than this never-ending circus?"

Mr Gray, MSP said: "This is a matter for the party at constituency and national level."

Nobody was available from the constituency party to comment last night.

Ms Moffat was the victim of an assault by yobs in May. She was also criticised for running up nearly 40,000 in her travel expenses four years ago and hit the news last year for comparing First Minister Alex Salmond to Hitler.

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