Return of the Bennite

Frances Rafferty

Much of the angst surrounding Michael Meacher can be put down to the fact that he is being tagged as old Labour. As one of the party's senior figures with previous experience in government, if only at junior minister level, he wants to be sure of a job that could translate to a place in the Cabinet.

Mr Meacher is a member of the old Bennite Left and was a leading light in the battles that tore the party apart over the re-selection of sitting MPs and the campaign to have the leader elected by unions, local parties and MPs.

It can only grieve him that this wider electorate - previously the choice was made by Labour MPs - returned Tony Blair. He cast his vote for John Prescott. In the elections for the Shadow Cabinet, Mr Meacher has a sizeable following, picking up votes from the hard Left Campaign group and the soft Left Tribunites.

He has been MP for Oldham West since 1970 and has had posts in industry, health. social security and trade. Educated at a minor public school in Berkhamsted on a county scholarship, he went on to New College, Oxford.

His deputy is the energetic Ian McCartney, MP for Makerford since 1987, who has been noted for highlighting the plight of low-paid workers in fast-food emporiums.

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