Labour group calls for shift to power-sharing: Party urged to embrace 'collaborative government' at all levels

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The Independent Online
LABOUR is urged to accept the idea of power-sharing with other political parties at national and local level in a 'modernisation manifesto' prepared by the soft-left Labour Co-ordinating Committee.

'The future has to be about collaborative government,' the document, which will be launched at a conference in Sheffield on Saturday, says.

Shadow Cabinet members David Blunkett, the party's health spokesman, and Mo Mowlam, spokeswoman on citizens' rights and an LCC member, will be the key speakers at the joint LCC-Tribune event.

Mr Blunkett said last night that he had taken no part in drawing up the manifesto, which criticises the Labour leadership for failing to analyse what went wrong in the 1992 general election and forge a new strategy for power.

'At Westminster there has been a rapid return to business as usual. Though good dispatch box performances are welcome, they are no substitute for long-term thinking,' the document says.

The most direct attack on John Smith, though the Labour leader is not rebuked by name, is over modernising the party itself and the proposal for one member, one vote. (Omov). The reaction against Omov was an indication of the party's low morale, says the LCC, which is emphatically in favour of the change. 'Procrastination by the leadership has meant that the debate has become a referendum on divorce between the unions and the party, not the resolution of a debate about the best way of democratising an important link.'

On the economy, there is implicit criticism of Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor, for identifying vested interests without proposing how Labour would take them on. The LCC suggests helping pay for an 'inevitably expensive' welfare state, by using the tax system to 'claw back some of the universal benefits from those that do not need them'.

Child benefit would be the prime target. 'We may have to stop doing certain things, so that others can be done better,' it warns.

But it is the LCC's advocacy of 'collaborative government' which could prove most controversial. 'Labour find it hard to grasp this nettle, because, despite our exclusion from office, we still cannot quite shake off the view that we will get our turn in running things for the other people.'

Collaborative government is 'not about pacts and deals', the LCC stresses, but 'about a process of governance in which parties empower independent institutions and abandon their monopoly of who knows best'.

Backing electoral reform and proportional representation, the LCC says a pre-election pact with the Liberal Democrats is 'neither feasible or desirable. We can win under the old system, but only with a commitment to change it'.

Labour would have to get used to sharing power in variety of ways at national, regional and local level, it says. This is already the case in many county councils.

According to a survey released by the Liberal Democrats last weekend, they and the Labour Party share power to different degrees on 10 of the 26 county councils in England which the May elections left with no party in overall control.

Mr Blunkett, who is not an LCC member, said he was 'deeply opposed' to electoral change. 'The idea of people pulling together to provide local services is nothing new. Until the Seventies, the counties were virtually run on a collaborative basis with very large numbers of 'independents'.'