Tony Blair, the Labour leader, won a convincing victory last night at the Scottish Labour Conference in Inverness in his campaign to change Clause IV of the party's constitution.
The conference voted for a motion calling for "a review of Clause IV" by 58.3 per cent to 41.6 per cent after Mr Blair opened a highly-charged debate on the party's 77-year-old commitment to common ownership.
Mr Blair said in his speech:"If we can't get up and put our principles before the British people with the conviction of people who really believe what they're saying, why should they trust us with Government? That is the question."
After the vote was announced, he said :"I am absolutely delighted. A few weeks ago, this result would have been unthinkable. It shows the pace at which the debate for change is moving." Mr Blair's campaign for a new Clause IV will culminate in a special conference in London at the end of April.
A second motion, to retain Clause IV unaltered, was defeated by a slightly narrower margin of 56 per cent to 44 per cent. But the margin of both victories was unexpectedly large: there were originally no motions submitted to the conference supporting the leadership, and the largest union affiliated to the Scottish Labour Party, the GMU, abstained.
Some smaller unions switched to support the leadership just before the vote, including the Scottish Area of the National Union of Mineworkers.
George Robertson, the shadow Scottish Secretary, said that the constituency parties had been swayed by Mr Blair's "passionate" speech and voted by a majority for change.
In the debate, Mr Blair was attacked by George Galloway, MP for Glasgow Hillhead, who appealed to the conference: "Don't sell the banner our forefathers and foremothers bore." Afterwards, Mr Galloway said he was "disappointed, saddened and surprised" by the result.
In his speech, Mr Blair used words which are expected to form part of the draft of the new Clause IV, to be presented to Labour's National Executive Committee on Monday.
His vision was of a Britain "where power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many and not the few, where poverty and prejudice are overcome, where we act together to realise the potential of all".
One trade union member of the NEC, Bill Connor, of the Communications Workers Union, who has seen a recent draft said it "needed some tinkering" and read like a "raggedy composite motion". He expected the new draft to be agreed on Monday, but the NEC could continue talks on Wednesday.
Conference reports, page 5
A Scottish view, page 15Reuse content