Action taken against Labour members

ONE prominent member of the Labour Party in Colchester has been expelled and another disciplined after allegations of disloyalty were made against them.

By Roddy Ashworth

ONE prominent member of the Labour Party in Colchester has been expelled and another disciplined after allegations of disloyalty were made against them.

Former councillor Derrick Fairbrother, who still protests his innocence, was thrown out of the party at a private internal meeting of the national constitutional committee on Sunday.

But current Labour councillor Don Quinn, who denied a raft of charges made following allegations from local party members, was allowed to remain provided he agreed to drastically lower his profile for 19 months.

He was told he may not represent the Labour Party at any meeting and must not sit on any council panels. Mr Quinn is chairman of Best Value at the town hall, a role he must relinquish if he wishes to remain a party member.

Nor will he be allowed to re-stand for his current St Andrews' council seat as a Labour candidate when it comes up for election in May 2004.

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Last night Mr Fairbrother – who resigned as a councillor for St Anne's ward last May in protest at changes in council housing management – said he was appalled at his treatment by the party he had worked hard for over the past 16 years.

"Seeing as I am innocent of what I have been charged with, I am gutted.

"It was initially alleged that I spoke at a Defend Council Housing Meeting, which I admit. But then that was changed to saying I spoke at a rival party's meeting, a Socialist Alliance meeting.

"I deny that and I have documentary evidence to show I didn't do it. But they ignored what was black and white in front of them."

Mr Fairbrother, who comes from the left of the party, was expelled for five years. But last night he said he would never rejoin Labour after being victim to what he described as a "purge".

Meanwhile, Mr Quinn declined to comment on the disciplinary meeting, which lasted 12 hours and was held in secret at the Red Lion Hotel in Colchester's High Street.

But sources said he faced a number of charges, also to do with working alongside the Socialist Alliance. He was cleared of these.

However, he admitted other actions, including questioning the abilities of council Labour group Leader Tim Young in email correspondence.

Last night Mr Young, who gave evidence at the meeting, refused to comment on the matter.

Recently, former Labour parliamentary candidate for Colchester and Labour council group leader Rod Green resigned from the party as did Harbour Labour Party chairman, John Coombes.

Both veterans of the local party had been facing similar official charges of disloyalty relating to the Socialist Alliance.

On his resignation, Mr Green – an Alderman of Colchester - described the investigation into his activities as a "contemptible charade," the evidence considered being "a compendium of inaccuracies, distortions, gossip and highly tendentious statements."

Nobody from Labour's national offices or from the party's Eastern regional organisation was available to comment last night.

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