End union links, says Labour group

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The Independent Online
A RIGHT-WING group of New Labour modernisers will be launched at the party's conference next month with calls for a referendum on abolition of the monarchy, drug decriminalisation and the scrapping of all links with trade unions.

Second Term, a collection of young professionals who style themselves "Blair's own shock troops", also want lower income taxes, a fully elected second chamber and proportional representation.

A commitment to join the European single currency, radical welfare reform, lower business taxes and the removal of any role in the party for trade unions are among its other proposals. The group will launch itself at the conference in Blackpool with the aim of urging the Labour leadership not to let up on radical reform of the party and the constitution.

It already has a network of 500 supporters and aims to represent the "silent majority" of new, younger members who have joined under Tony Blair's leadership.

Second Term is headed by the founders of the now- defunct Labour 2000, an influential group that received the backing of both Mr Blair and the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, for its modernising zeal.

Labour 2000 called for the ditching of Clause Four, the adoption of Tory internal market for the health service and reform of the old-style annual conference, years before they became official policy. Second Term plans to act as a similar outlet for some of the more radical views held privately by some cabinet ministers.

The group's co-director, Nick Prior, a 33-year-old management consultant and former chairman of Hampstead and Highgate Labour Party, said that there was a danger that the Blair revolution could be stalled by the pressures of being in government. "We want to maintain the momentum of reform that was built up in opposition. We should be thinking now about what this Government will do in its second term. Our message to the leadership is that it should not lose its nerve," Mr Prior said.

"We put forward several policies as Labour 2000 that sounded too radical at the time, but were subsequently adopted by the leadership. Second Term wants to repeat that success."

A Royal Commission on drug decriminalisation would allow the "free thinking" needed on the subject. "There is a serious danger of being left behind by public opinion, particularly among young people, on the issue," he said.

His fellow co-director, Phil Woodford, said that recent moves within the party to reject the recommendations of the Jenkins commission on PR proved the need for a new Blairite vanguard.

"We believe in a modern constitution for both the party and the country. We are against patronage in any shape and that is why we have to avoid making the House of Lords Britain's biggest quango.

"On the monarchy, we are told that it is reforming itself, but the public should be given a say. They should be given that right in a referendum."

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