margaret beckett 88.
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Thirty-seven Labor Party members defected to the Liberal Democrat Party on Friday in response to the way Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett handled the Middle East crisis.
The defections, which included some Labor Party officials, were all from Beckett's constituency in Derby South, and were in protest at the government's refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon.
Local Labor Party chairman Mohammed Rawail Peeno said his decision to defect was because of "the mishandling of the Lebanon crisis. When Margaret Beckett refused to back a cease-fire and instead sided with George Bush it was the breaking point for us," he said.
A Labor Party spokesman claimed that the defections had been motivated by "local factors."
The Labor Party asserted that Foreign Minister Beckett had worked tirelessly for a sustainable cease-fire. "It is important that the foreign secretary and the prime minister continue to work hard to achieve a sustainable cease-fire in Lebanon, something we are sure all Labor Party members would unite around."
"These defections in the foreign secretary's own seat are significant," Liberal Democrat Party leader Menzies Campbell said. "The government's position on the Middle East and Iraq shows just how out of touch it is with many in its party and the majority of the general public."
Tony Blair's stance on the conflict caused dissent within Labor, with some MPs, such as the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, openly speaking out against it.