Scargill floats plan for party

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

The miners' leader Arthur Scargill has revealed his plans for a left- wing party to fight Tony Blair's new Labour at the next general election.

Mr Scargill disclosed his blueprint for a party of "class understanding and class commitment" at secret meetings in Glasgow and London over the last few days.

Selected activists from the RMT transport union, the National Union of Teachers and Unison, the public service union, were asked to support the new organisation to be launched on May Day next year.

Mr Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers, indicated his disaffection with Labour at the party conference in October when he was overwhelmingly defeated in his fight to resurrect the pro- nationalisation Clause IV.

Tony Blair may be tempted to heave a sigh of relief at the prospect of the NUM leader's departure, but if the new organisation fields candidates it could prove the difference between success or failure for Labour in highly marginal constituencies. One of the biggest obstacles is financial - the group would have to find nearly a million pounds in deposits if candidates stood in each constituency.

Senior Labour left-wingers, such as Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner, have already registered their scepticism about Mr Scargill's venture. If the new party is formed it is more likely to attract young idealists and activists rather than experienced politicians.

In a nine-page document, Future Strategy for the Left, Mr Scargill says a socialist Labour Party "would be able to galvanise mass opposition to injustice, inequality and environmental destruction and build the fight for a socialist Britain". The "discussion paper" attacks the present Labour leadership for "systematically dismantling Labour's commitment to socialism - a process in which the `spin doctors' merely put a media gloss on the machinations of the leadership."

He says the Labour Party is now indistinguishable from the Democratic Party in the US, Germany's Social Democrat Party, or the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Scargill said that "possibly the most shameful about-turn" for Labour was the abandonment of unilateral disarmament.

The paper says: "There will be those - including highly respected comrades - who insist we should stay inside the party and `fight', but such an attitude fails or refuses to recognise that the party's constitution now effectively prevents this."