Party members rally 8-1 behind Clause IV changes Early wave of support for change to Clause IV

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LABOUR members are voting more than eight to one in favour of the revamped Clause IV, abolishing the party's commitment to large-scale nationalisation, writes Paul Routledge.

Early returns from the constituencies indicate that Tony Blair will secure a convincing majority for his reform when the votes from constituencies and trade unions are counted at Labour's special conference on Saturday. Insiders predicted the vote would split 70-30 in support of change.

Labour officials disclosed yesterday that every one of the 150 local parties that have counted their ballots on the issue have backed Mr Blair by a margin ranging from 64 to 97 per cent. Most parties have recorded a "yes" vote in the high 80s, the second-highest being in Mr Blair's Sedgefield, co Durham, parliamentary constituency and the lowest in the London borough of Islington where he lives.

The Labour leader said: "I congratulate the thousands of party and trade union members up and down the country who have voted so decisively for change. The result will be what the country wants, and what the Tories fear most: a reborn Labour Party, freshly confident, its membership and leadership united, its principles intact and its electoral appeal dramatically renewed."

Not all constituencies are holding individual ballots, and where they are there is some disquiet that the party officers can find out how members voted. When trade unionists have been given the right to vote, they too have supported abandoning the old Clause IV.

Mr Blair will tomorrow appeal to the conference of the shopworkers' union, Usdaw, to back him and he is almost certain to win their support. However, opposition to change remains strong among trade union traditionalists.

The unions still wield 70 per cent of the votes at conference but individual Labour Party membership has exceeded the 300,000 threshold that triggers a review of conference voting strengths. A decision has already been taken in principle to reduce the unions' share of votes to 50 per cent.