Kinnock sparks power struggle

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The Independent Online
A FIERCE Labour power struggle will break out into the open today when Neil Kinnock denounces a plan to create a new army of trade unionist 'registered supporters' with the right to vote in selections of Parliamentary candidates.

Mr Kinnock, in implied criticism of his successor, John Smith, will argue on BBC Television's On the Record that the party should have seized the opportunity to debate clear-cut 'one member one vote'(OMOV) selection of MPs at its last conference.

The former Labour leader will warn that the plan for registered supporters - in a confidential document on the party's union links to be considered by the National Executive this week - is not a 'workable compromise' between OMOV and the current electoral college system.

The registered-supporters proposal is also firmly rejected in a Fabian Society report published today by an influential group of Labour figures chaired by Lord Archer, a former Solicitor-General. The Fabian Society report recommends the ending of the block vote, with unions having no more than half the votes at party conference and then only on a basis where delegates can vote as individuals. It also proposes the scrapping of the party's controversial Clause IV, which since 1918 has committed the party to state ownership.

Although the registered-supporters plan is technically only one of the options proposed in the document from a commission set up by Mr Smith, the GMB general union, one of the biggest affiliated to the party, has already signified that it intends to campaign for it. GMB sources said yesterday the union would also reject an alternative plan in the document for trade union participation in constituency elections to be confined to 'levy plus' members who would pay a supplement over their union subscriptions to become full party members.

Mr Smith has yet to declare his hand on the proposal but is thought to be keen, like Mr Kinnock, to have parliamentary candidates selected under the OMOV system. He has also made clear he wants to end union involvement in the election of party leader and to reduce the trade union vote at party conferences.

Mr Kinnock says the registered-supporter system would be 'cumbersome, expensive and confusing - and couldn't in any way be superior to an OMOV system for the selecting of parliamentary candidates'. He adds: 'I would have liked the issue to have been decided at the 1992 conference, and I think the votes were close enough by the time we got to the conference to make it worthwhile pressing.'

The document going before Wednesday's NEC, and obtained by the Independent on Sunday, argues that registered supporters would reflect the fact that members of unions affiliated to Labour 'are the foundation of the union link with the party, but they do not have individual rights with the relationship'.

It says that the register would also provide a 'stepping stone' for those who want to become members of the party.