Blair: no stalling on party reform

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair is to confront trade union and left-wing activists at this autumn's Labour Party conference over the next phase of his modernisation project. In a step described by one Downing Street source as "no risk, no gain", he plans to push through reforms designed to remove power from his party's left wing.

The Prime Minister will tell party members today that there will be no compromise over moves to remove power from left-wing activists.

"There is no watering down, no going back," Mr Blair will tell Labour's women and youth conference in Bournemouth. "We must keep modernising. It was courage that brought us victory on May 1, and it will deliver us the victories of the future."

Unions which had been negotiating over possible modifications to the plans were taken by surprise last night. They had been told the Labour leadership would make concessions in order to avoid a conflict at the Brighton conference.

At least a third of constituency parties had asked for a year's delay to the "Labour into Power" project, which includes the ending of the right to put motions to conference. Motions hostile to the plan at this year's conference outnumber supportive ones by 10 to one - even the Labour Students, usually supportive of Tony Blair, called for postponement.

The proposals in the "Labour into Power" document include the setting- up of regional policy forums to formulate ideas, reforms to conference and changes likely to remove cabinet ministers and left-wing MPs from the party's National Executive Committee. A Downing Street spokesman said last night that the policy forums would be set up even before the conference had approved the plans.

Mr Blair will tell today's conference that modernisation must continue.

"Modernisation didn't stop on May 1. We won because we are new Labour. We will win again provided we remain new Labour," he will say.

The final report on the proposals will be discussed by the NEC at the end of this month, but sources said last night that it would not be significantly different from the draft produced in February for consultation.

Union spokesmen said they had not been told of the change of heart, and speculated that there would be deep unhappiness over Mr Blair's statement.

n Labour backbencher Diane Abbott yesterday blamed "the intolerance of independent thought" of the Labour leadership after being removed from the influential Treasury Select Committee.

In a rare public outburst against Tony Blair by a Labour MP, close friends of the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP accused spin doctors of trying to impose a " Stalinist" regime.

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