Clause IV setback looming for Blair

Click to follow
Efforts were under way last night to prevent Tony Blair, the Labour leader, suffering a high- profile setback this week in his drive to replace Clause IV as the second-biggest trade union pressed for the new clause to contain a commitment to "full employment".

There was growing apprehension among Blair supporters last night that union block votes would be deployed to ensure the Scottish Labour Party conference would on Friday take a potentially embarrassing decision to retain the 77-year-old clause.

Although the decision will not affect the outcome of the final decision at the party's special conference on 29 April, widely expected to be in favour of a new Clause IV, it would be all the more unwelcome for coming immediately after Mr Blair makes a keynote speech to the conference in Inverness.

And a new front was opened in the battle with a demand from the GMB union to include the term "full employment" in the new clause. While the union's leader, John Edmonds, strongly supports change, he said: "Full employment is Labour's distinctive policy . . . it should be in our manifesto . . . it should be a centrepiece of our statement of aims and values."

The union's delegation to the Scottish conference could abstain in Friday's vote in Inverness though it is expected to cast its vote in favour of a new Clause IV drawn up by Tony Blair and his deputy John Prescott. While that clause is expected to stress using the talents of, and providing opportunities for all, it is not expected to meet the GMB's demands by using the term "full employment".

The leadership clause is expected to stress social justice, the need for a dynamic market, and the fair distribution of wealth, power and opportunity. It is also expected to retain a role for public ownership in a mix of markets, common, co-operative and public ownership.

Supporters of change argue that a decision by the Scottish conference not to support a new Clause IV would not reflect widespread backing for change among rank-and-file members.