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Tumour shock for AM hours after rebellion.

Byline: By Martin Shipman Western Mail

Rebel am Peter Law yesterday remained defiant despite dramatically withdrawing his threat to stand for Parliament after revealing he has a brain tumour.

Mr Law pulled out just hours after confirmation of his intention to challenge the official Labour candidate in his Blaenau Gwent constituency in protest against the imposition of an all-women shortlist on the local party. Standing as an independent meant he faced automatic expulsion from the Labour Party, a move that would have left Rhodri Morgan leading a minority administration at Cardiff Bay.

But after being taken ill on Sunday, Mr Law was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Yesterday morning he made a statement to a hastily assembled Press conference at his office in Ebbw Vale before being transferred to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, where last night he was undergoing a biopsy.

He told journalists, 'For two weeks I have had a slight pain which was talked about possibly as temporal arteritis. The consultant decided yesterday afternoon I should have a scan to see what was the problem.

'That was about three o'clock and about half-past four the consultant came to tell me. As he said, 'There's no easy way I can tell you this, but we've found a tumour on the brain'.

'So of course in the light of that I realised I need to make a public statement this morning. As much as I had planned to stand as an individual candidate I can't because of my personal health circumstances.

'It's obviously quite a big shock for me. I have to look to the future for my wife and children and my own health. In fact I leave here today to go straight to the University Hospital of Wales where the doctors and surgeons will look to tell me what the correct procedure of treatment will be. My faith is with them and I hope they will be able to help me.

'It doesn't mean I am condoning in any way the way the Labour Party has treated the people of this constituency. It's been a disgrace the way they have used this constituency for the placement of a candidate through positive discrimination, and I'll never forgive them for that because the people here deserve much better.

'Therefore people will now be able to decide who they think is most appropriate to represent them and I hope they use the opportunity of the election to send a message to Rhodri Morgan and Tony Blair because they thoroughly deserve that.

'I'm not saying how people should vote. They are sensible people in Blaenau Gwent, they've already thought about it a lot. People talk to me in the street every day here and tell me their views.

'I think they should think very carefully about who is going to stand up for Blaenau Gwent - who is going to make sure that we are never used in this way again and we are not taken for granted and treated with disdain. I'm quite ashamed of that.'

Reacting to the news of Mr Law's health problem, a Welsh Labour spokesman said, 'This is very sad news. All those who have worked closely with Peter over the years are shocked to hear of his illness.

'Our thoughts are with Peter and his family. The important thing now is that Peter has every opportunity to get well.

'Yesterday we explained that any member who declares they will stand against an official Labour candidate automatically expels themselves from membership of the Labour Party. Peter has now announced that he will not be standing in Blaenau Gwent after all, therefore the reasons behind his self-exclusion no longer stand. The door is open for Peter to resume his role in the Labour Party.'

Retiring MP Llew Smith said, 'There is no doubt in my mind that if Peter had stood he would have won a landslide victory. I was on the streets with him two weeks ago and many people were coming up to him to express their support.

'Sadly, Peter's ill-health has now prevented him from standing.'

Nick Bourne, who leads the Conservatives in the Assembly, said, 'This is truly awful news. Our thoughts are with Peter and his family at this difficult time. I have always respected Peter as an individual and as a politician. We wish him well for a full and speedy recovery.'

Plaid Cymru Assembly leader Ieuan Wyn Jones said, 'I wish to send my best wishes to Peter Law and his family. I'm sure I speak on behalf of all his colleagues in the National Assembly for Wales when I say I have enjoyed working with him over the past six years.' Defiance and heartache as rebel Labour AM Law throws Rhodri's grip on Assembly into limbo: Peter LAW's withdrawal in distressing circumstances as a general election candidate leaves the future of Rhodri Morgan's Assembly Government in limbo.

Despite Labour's decision not to proceed with its expulsion of Mr Law, it remains to be seen whether he will accept the olive branch once he makes the hoped-for recovery from his serious health condition. His mood at an emotionally-charged press conference before leaving for hospital was anything but conciliatory. That he insisted on making a defiant statement offering no forgiveness to Tony Blair and Rhodri Morgan for the imposition of an all-women shortlist on the Blaenau Gwent party was a strong clue that he will not come weakly into line.

At this time, of course, it is uncertain how long Mr Law will be out of action for. But his absence immediately reduces Labour's voting strength at the Assembly to 29. The opposition have 30 members between them, although by convention the Presiding Officer - Plaid Cymru AM Lord Elis-Thomas - does not vote.

Because the Assembly does not have primary lawmaking powers, votes are not as crucial as they often are at Westminster. The Assembly Government implements its own policy decisions and the ability of the Assembly as a whole to interfere with the process is limited. On the few occasions when defeats have occurred in plenary sessions, Labour has usually found other means of getting its own way - sometimes by dismissing the votes as technical issues which have no material impact on policy implementation.

This reduces the opposition parties' ability to change things to a nuclear option - passing a motion of no confidence in the First Minister and removing him from office. This has already happened once before, of course. In February 2000 Rhodri Morgan came to power after his predecessor Alun Michael was voted out by the combined opposition parties. At that time Labour had just 28 seats against the opposition's 32.

In recent months there has been much speculation about Rhodri Morgan facing a similar challenge. Before his illness Peter Law had not stated explicitly how he would vote if a motion of no confidence were put in Mr Morgan, although he has made no secret that he holds the First Minister's leadership skills in low esteem.

Last October he told the Western Mail, 'There is no evidence of any strategy in the way Rhodri carries on. We seem to stagger from one issue to another with nothing being planned. There are some policies that have been good - free prescriptions are a positive benefit and free bus travel for pensioners is too, although that was actually in the planning stage before the Assembly came along. But overall there isn't much of what could be called a radical agenda.'

He suggested Mr Morgan should quit as First Minister in 2006, when there will be an opportunity for a leadership election, and added, 'Five years ago Rhodri Morgan was a folk hero. The problem is that he has ridden into the castle, pulled up the drawbridge and is now a baron.'

When he spoke to us shortly before being taken ill, Mr Law was, if anything, even more disparaging about Mr Morgan.

Clearly the first thought of everyone at the Assembly will be to wish Peter Law a speedy recovery.

But yesterday's dramatic events are likely to provide Labour with only a temporary respite. Nothing will happen before the general election, but there is little doubt that discussion will continue about the possibility of an alternative administration, either before the summer recess or after the next Assembly elections in 2007. Headaches one of the most common symptoms: The earliest and most common symptoms of a brain tumour are headaches.

They are usually caused by a rise in pressure as the tumour grows. A pressure headache may be most severe in the mornings, and can occasionally wake the sufferer.

Some symptoms are caused by tumours in particular areas of the brain and may change a person's personality and intellect. They can also affect balance, smell, vision and speech among other functions.

Some brain tumours do not need surgery although most do, whether that is with a biopsy to find out what sort of tumour it is or full surgery to remove it.

If the cancer has spread to a secondary tumour, radiotherapy is usually used to treat the tumour and prolong the sufferer's life.

The length of time it takes for people to recover from a tumour, if it has been successfully treated, can depend on the person. Certain brain tumours are benign, others are malignant and may spread to other parts of the brain and body.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 5, 2005
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