`Defining moment' as Blair wins backing for Clause IV

Labour's long march to electability yesterday passed a critical staging post when Tony Blair secured overwhelming National Executive Committee support for a new Clause IV embracing "the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition".

Calling yesterday's 21-3 vote a "defining moment in the history of my party", the Labour leader crossed the last hurdle before the special conference on 29 April which is now expected to endorse a new Clause IV pledging to seek a "dynamic economy, serving the public interest" with"a thriving private sector and high quality public services".

Mr Blair at last unveiled his draft 345-word summation of what the new Labour Party stands for yesterday. On the central question of public ownership, the current Clause IV commitment to "common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange" is replaced by an economy "where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them".

The draft had an easy ride at the NEC, with only three small textual changes, and the Transport and General Workers' Union abstaining. The TGWU, the largest union affiliated to the party, has been a resolute defender of the existing Clause IV, but Dan Duffy, one of its two representatives on the NEC, said afterwards that the union "might" vote for the new clause next month. Representatives from the GMB general union, the public services union, Unison, and the Manufacturing, Science and Finance union also abstained, on the grounds that they were consulting their members, although all are expected to support Mr Blair's draft.

Apart from left-wing MPs Dennis Skinner and Diane Abbott, the only vote against Mr Blair's new draft was that of Vernon Hince of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, which is fighting rail privatisation and is dissatisfied with Labour's unwillingness to promise to return the railways to public ownership.

John Prescott, who campaigned for the leadership last year on the slogan "full employment", denied that the absence of those words from the new clause was a setback for him. "It goes beyond full employment, because it talks about `the opportunity for all to work' but also `to prosper', so it's not at any cost, it's not cheap skivvy labour."

Tom Burlison, of the GMB, which 10 days ago demanded that the phrase be included, said: "I think full employment is there. In my view there is enough there for my own executive council to recommend acceptance."

The new clause was attacked from both left and right. Tony Benn, a former member of the NEC, said: "Labour's heart is being cut out and handed to the City. This is really our promise to the City, `Don't worry, we will never interfere with your right to run the economy'."

Michael Portillo, Secretary of State for Employment, said: "Weasel words will not disguise the truth. Labour's socialist instincts remain. They want higher taxes, more spending, and more government regulation and intervention."

The Defend Clause IV campaign said: "There is little in Blair's proposed new clause to which Liberal Democrats or even many Tories could not subscribe."

This was contradicted by Mr Prescott who told Sky News: "One thing we're sure of is that Mr Major couldn't sign up to it."

Sources close to the leadership expect a "rough ride" in the next seven weeks over what it sees as the "toughness" of the economic section of the new clause, which accepts the "enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition" - even if combined with "the forces of partnership and co-operation".

Mr Blair told a news conference: "Whenever we have changed, we have told the public we have changed, and yet sought to assure the party that we have not changed. Far from being ashamed to admit change, I want the public to know of the changes we have made."

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam