DOZENS of Labour Party members in its safest Welsh seat are facing expulsion for supporting rebel AM Peter Law in his campaign for election to Parliament.
Mr Law has himself left Labour to stand in his Blaenau Gwent constituency as an independent in protest against the imposition of an all-women shortlist on the local party. His decision has already caused massive problems for Rhodri Morgan, who has lost his majority at the National Assembly.
Now significant numbers of party members who are helping Mr Law in his general election campaign against Maggie Jones, the official Labour candidate, are likely to face investigations leading to expulsion.
Yesterday Mr Law, whose remarkable recovery from surgery to remove a brain tumour convinced him to go ahead with his candidacy, was distributing a leaflet which includes the names of 18 supporters who are or have been prominent members of Blaenau Gwent Labour Party.
Further party members have told Mr Law and his team they will be happy to deliver leaflets or canvass for him.
A Welsh Labour spokeswoman said, "The rules state that anyone who acts as an agent for a rival candidate or who signs their nomination papers automatically excludes themselves from the party. Other supporters of rival candidates are dealt with on a case- by-case basis.
"Clearly there will need to be inquiries into individual cases. We would have to check, for example, that names had been included on a rival candidate's leaflet with their consent.
"At present we will be concentrating on fighting the election, but afterwards we will look into this. It could be that some of the people have already lapsed as members or left already. We certainly aren't going to be going round with cameras watching people delivering leaflets."
Labour's rules state, "A member of the party who stands for election, subscribes to a nomination paper of or acts as the election agent to a person standing for election, in opposition to a duly endorsed Labour candidate, shall automatically be ineligible to be or remain a party member."
Other members supporting an opposition candidate are covered by a further rule which states, "No member of the party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the National Constitutional Committee is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NCC is grossly detrimental to the party."
Mr Law said, "I am so impressed by the principled stand of these people. As I have always made clear, this isn't a personal battle, but a fight for democracy on behalf of the people of Blaenau Gwent. Those who have come out in support of me are making a powerful statement that they are not prepared to collaborate with the anti-democratic forces that now run the Labour Party.
"The more the Labour Party strikes at me and has a go at the people of Blaenau Gwent, the more people will rise up.
"Llew Smith [the retiring MP] and I told top party officials a long time ago what would happen if they imposed an all-women shortlist, but they ignored us. Now they will reap the whirlwind."
Former local party chairman Sam Jelly, who joined Labour 60 years ago and celebrates his 79th birthday today, is one of those whose name appears on Mr Law's leaflet.
Last night he said, "They can do what they like. This isn't the party I joined.
"I will be voting in accordance with my own conscience, and that means I will be supporting Peter Law.
"I remember Aneurin Bevan as the local MP very well and things would never have got to this stage in his time. With Old Labour, people were selected on merit. New Labour to me is nothing but a dictatorship."
The name of retired head teacher Rex Herbert, who with 52 years service was the longest serving Labour councillor in Britain until he stepped down last year, is also on Mr Law's leaflet.
Mr Herbert was chairman of the old Ebbw Vale Council in 1960, the year Nye Bevan died.
He said, "I can sum up my position in two sentences. I joined a democratic Labour Party. It's no longer democratic.
"I want the Labour Party to learn a lesson in this election - that you should never treat your loyal supporters in the way it has treated us in Blaenau Gwent.
"I always used to consider myself on the right of the party - I wasn't in favour of wholesale nationalisation. I haven't changed, but now I'm on the left of the party.
"Of course it will hurt to be expelled after all these years, but I'm doing this for the sake of the party."
Linda Morgan, one of four former mayoresses backing Mr Law, said, "Like many women around here, I am totally against all-women shortlists."