Prescott comes out fighting for socialism

Click to follow
The `S' word - socialism - was revived last night by John Prescott in a barnstorming speech challenging modernisers in the party who were prepared to the drop the word from Labour's dictionary.

The Labour deputy leader used a meeting in Luton consulting members about the party's election manifesto to make it clear that he will not allow the word socialism to be ditched.

Mr Prescott reminded the party that the NHS had been created by the socialist Attlee Government half a century ago. People understood that the NHS `demonstrates the superiority of the concept - the socialist concept - of a national health service based on need', not the ability to pay.

The deputy leader's intervention was also a reminder to the modernisers in the party that Mr Prescott remains ready to fight for the principles he believes in.

It was intended as a direct response to Kim Howells, a Labour MP and strong supporter of modernisation by Tony Blair, who said at the weekend that the epithet `socialist' should be `humanely phased out' to avoid reforming policies being hindered by labels. The Labour leader gave his strong backing to Mr Howells the next day. `Kim expressed this in his own inimitable style, but I think the kernel of his argument was entirely correct.'

Mr Prescott also reaffirmed his credentials as a `democratic socialist' rather than a `social democrat', a term accepted by Mr Blair. He said: `The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. We believe that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone.'

The words were agreed, he said, by himself and the Labour leader in their policy document. He held up his Labour Party membership card to point out that the words were printed there too.

His speech may go some way to reassure the unions and the left who were deeply unhappy with the row at the TUC last week over the reports that Labour was contemplating severing its traditional links with the unions..