'Sickened' MP Alice Mahon quits Labour

EXCLUSIVE: One of Yorkshire's best known Labour members has launched a ferocious attack on the party and Gordon Brown in a withering resignation letter in which she says she feels "betrayed''.

Alice Mahon, a Halifax MP for 18 years and a party member for more than 50 years, has resigned her membership of the party saying she can no longer stomach how it operates.

In her letter to the Halifax Constituency Labour Party she criticises the Prime Minister saying he has shown zero contrition over privatising public services and failed to tackle the excesses of the bankers.

And she heaps scorn on the Welfare Reform Bill saying: "This Labour Government should hang its head in shame for inflicting this on the British public just as we face the most severe recession any of us have experienced in a lifetime.''

Mrs Mahon, 71, a trenchant critic of Tony Blair's government, says she had hoped that under Mr Brown's stewardship "we might go back to being a really progressive and caring party'' but "in the event I could not have been more wrong''.

And she says the recent scandal over emails sent by Mr Brown's special adviser, Damian McBride, proposing a blogging site smearing top Tories left her feeling "sickened''.

She told the Yorkshire Post: "My stepdaughter Rachel said to me: 'How could they do that to people like David Cameron and his wife Samantha when they had recently lost their son Ivan? What kind of people think it would be a good idea to smear them?'

"I was sickened by that – that is not the Labour Party that I joined all those years ago.''

In the letter she said: "This has been a difficult decision to take as I feel I was almost born into the Labour Party. However, I can no longer be a member of a party that at the leadership level has betrayed many of the values and principles that inspired me as a teenager to join.''

Other targets include the Government's alleged co-operation with the George Bush regime.

And she adds: "Our ministers shame us in front of the world when they give their support to the Israeli Government as they commit war crimes in Palestine and Lebanon.

"Brown has just announced plans to send another 900 troops to Afghanistan, billions to be spent on an unwinnable war and pensioners dare not turn on their heating because this Government will not tackle the energy fat cats.''

She also fulminates against the "despicable'' treatment of Janet Oosthuysen, a mother-of-three who won a close contest to stand as a prospective Parliamentary candidate in Calder Valley last year only to be deselected by the National Executive Committee, over a police caution after her former partner's car was damaged. She contrasted the NEC's actions with its silence over the Home Secretary's expenses row.

She said: "My final reason for leaving the party is because it is no longer democratic. The personally vindictive, dishonest, campaign played out on the pages of the tabloids by certain Labour Party members to deselect Janet Oosthuysen was despicable...

"Quite simply I have had it with New Labour.''

Last night Halifax MP Linda Riordan, a former protege of Mrs Mahon's, said: "I am very sad. She gave a lot to the Labour Party but at the end of the day the Labour Party gave a lot to Alice too and that is all I have to say. I do hope she will reconsider.''

Susan Press, the mayor of Hebden Royd Town Council, said: "I think it is a tragedy when we lose principled and passionate people like Alice Mahon from the Labour Party."

Rebel with a left-wing cause who fell out with New Labour

Robert Sutcliffe

Alice Mahon was born in September 1937 and educated at a grammar school in Halifax. In the year Margaret Thatcher came to power –1979 – she gained a BA in Social Policy from the University of Bradford.

A nursing auxiliary for 10 years she went on to teach Trade Union Studies at Bradford College from 1980-87 and many of today's big union leaders are personal friends of hers.

A councillor on Calderdale Council she was elected MP for Halifax in 1987, a position she held for 18 years. A left-winger and Eurosceptic she rebelled against New Labour, voting against the Iraq war.

She is a strong supporter of gay rights and reform of the House of Lords. Despite failing eyesight she is active in left-wing politics and groups such as the Stop the War coalition and CND. She is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society.

In July 2002 she read extracts from James Kirkup's poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name in a public challenge to the blasphemy law in Trafalgar Square.