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13 June 2010

“Expel him!”: Labour MP comes under attack at Compass rally

Ed Balls turns on coalition’s anti-poverty tsar.

By James Macintyre

On this blog, I have repeatedly referred to Frank Field, the intriguing Labour MP who joined Tory grandees in begging Margaret Thatcher to stay in office when she was preparing to step down in 1990.

Now, it seems, he has come under attack for his eccentric politics, during a hitherto unreported session at the Compass conference in central London yesterday. The outcry came after Field was seen to have attacked “breakfast clubs” in schools. On Friday, he told the Times:

Why not get parents to give them their breakfast? Getting your children to school dressed, fed and on time is one star in our model.

Responding, Ed Balls, the former schools secretary and Labour leadership contender, made a passionate defence of the clubs and pointed out that many parents could not afford to buy breakfast. Balls received a loud cheer from hundreds of delegates, who then began to chant: “Expel him!”

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It appears the Labour Party is losing patience with this independent-minded MP. Now, the question in Westminster is, how long can it be before he loses patience with Labour, and defects to David Cameron’s “modern” Conservatives?

UPDATE: To clarify, hundreds cheered for Ed Balls, but only a handful booed Field’s name and yelled, “Expel him.” Still, this is a Labour MP we are talking about, so a rather unusual moment.