BY SIMON MARTELLI
A COUNCILLOR in Kent has been expelled from the Labour Party for campaigning against abortion and criticising the local MP for supporting the practice .
The Party's National Constitutional Committee last week found councillor Derek Jones guilty of breaking the party line during last year's General Election when he admonished the successful labour candidate Gwyn Prosser over the issue of abortion. At a rally in May attended by John Prescott and Mr Prosser, the Party member and town councillor was heard calling out: "Don't vote for Gwyn, vote for life."
John Bird. the Labour Party chairman for Deal and Dover, said: "Councillor Jones broke ranks, went public and campaigned against the Party candidate, so he had to be disciplined."
Councillor Jones joined the party several years ago in order to influence people in the local constituency. In April he sent a letter to other local party members urging them not to support Mr Prosser "unless and until he changes his position on these vital priority issues".
But Mr Jones was unable to get the matter discussed at branch meetings or even to write about it in the Party newsletter. He then publicly stated that he could not vote for the Party candidate because of his support for abortion. He claims that he succeeded in reducing the MP's majority from 11,000 to 5,000 votes.
"My only regret is that I didn't work harder." he said. "What concerns me is the number of Catholics in the constituency who are supporting this man."
The incident at the rally was not the first of its kind. At an election forum organised by the churches of Deal, Mr Jones asked the three party candidates whether they believed making abortion legal was "colluding in the death of the most defenceless human beings". While the Conservative candidate said that he did, Mr Prosser avoided the question by replying that "the circle of deprivation" caused by teenage pregnancies had to be broken.
According to Mr Jones, the Member of Parliament has failed to receive the SPUC lobby group, has absented himself from debates on euthanasia and, while supporting the antifoxhunting movement, has been continually avoiding his constituents over pro[human] life issues.
"I much admire Gwyn Prosser's stand on most issues," said Mr Jones in the same letter to local labour supporters. "But in this particular case of morality there is no middle ground available."
During the election campaign last year, an editorial in the local weekly paper denounced Mr Jones's pro-life campaigning for "detracting from the more important issues to be discussed and debated ahead of the polls", and causing disunity in the party by "petty mischief-making".
Mr Prosser defended himself saying: "I've never met anyone who is proabortion but, in common with most, I do respect a woman's choice under all the safeguards of the current law."
Mr Jones's case was heard, ironically, at 1 I am on Mothering Sunday, by three women judges one of whom, midway through the hearing, announced that they were all Catholic. They unanimously decided to expel the councillor unconditionally. Speaking for the Labour Life Group, Mrs Ann Farmer said: "There has been a lot of discrimination against pro-life members. It is extremely difficult to have a meeting or a stall at a conference or even just handing out leaflets."
"The Party has really tried to exclude us as much as possible," she said.