Lothian MP comes top of list of Tony Blair's rebels

LABOUR'S most rebellious new MP as been unmasked as Midlothian's David Hamilton.

The former miner, first elected to the House of Commons in 2001, has defied his party's whips on 18 occasions - more than any other Labour colleague who entered parliament at the same time.

And among Scottish Labour MPs, he ranks fourth in the league table of rebellion in the last parliament.

But today Mr Hamilton said every decision to go against the party line - over issues such as Iraq, trade union rights and pensions - had involved an internal struggle. He said: "I am elected as a Labour Party candidate and therefore my allegiance has to be to carry out the manifesto, but balanced with that I have to think what my constituents would want me to do on certain issues.

"I have a clear conscience on every one of the votes I've taken part in."

The league table of rebellious MPs is to be published in a new book, The Rebels: How Blair Mislaid His Majority by Philip Cowley, a lecturer at Nottingham University, published later this month.

Mr Hamilton came out comfortably as the most rebellious of the 2001 intake, with 18 votes against the Government, compared to second-placed Welsh MP Albert Owen, who rebelled 11 times and Strathkelvin and Bearsden's John Lyon, who defied the whips on ten occasions.

The comparison of the voting patterns of all the Scottish Labour MPs in the 2001-05 parliament shows former Linlithgow MP Tam Dalyell topped the league with 53 rebellions to his name, followed by George Galloway with 27, Falkirk East's Michael Connarty with 26 and Mr Hamilton with 18.

The late Robin Cook, former MP for Livingston, recorded seven votes in defiance of the whips. East Lothian MP Anne Picking and Edinburgh East's Gavin Strang each voted against the Government five times. And Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, rebelled three times.

Before he became an MP Mr Hamilton spent 20 years as a miner and led the Monktonhall miners in the 1984 strike.

He said when politicians were elected they had to choose one of two routes - seeking to climb the career ladder, which would not allow them to deviate from the party line, or accepting their future was on the backbenches. He had chosen the latter.

But he said: "I am an old-fashioned Labour politician - I am not an opportunist. I don't vote against the Government for the sake of voting against it.

"Every time I have done it, it has been an internal struggle with myself about whether I should or shouldn't. I will continue to do what I've been doing and stand up for things I feel strongly about."

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