Blairites plan to curb Labour NEC's power

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LABOUR modernisers preparing for government have drawn up secret plans to curb the party's historically troublesome national executive committee.

"The Party in Power", an internal document to be considered by party leaders on Wednesday, insists that under a Tony Blair administration the NEC must have "a close, harmonious and supportive relationship" with Downing Street.

Tom Sawyer, the party's general secretary and author of the paper, argues that the executive must be self-critical and continue the process of reform.

The report is the outcome of work by five members of the NEC who went to Cranfield School of Management for"brainstorming" sessions. It is certain to be treated with grave suspicion by left-wingers who already resent Mr Blair's "packing" of the executive with his own supporters.

"There is a sense that we are closer now than for a long time to securing a Labour victory at the next election," says Mr Sawyer. But the goal must be a second term, and a party that talked of national renewal "must also demonstrate a capacity to renew and change itself".

A task force is to be set up the examine relations between the NEC, the party and the parliamentary leadership when Labour is in office.

"This work needs to learn from the experience of the Seventies when these three centres of power became splintered," the document adds candidly. "It is recognised that the strength of the party in government will depend on mutual respect and understanding."