Labour party unveils new 'Clause Four'

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The Independent Online
THE SMALL but distinctly modernised Isle of Man Labour Party has stolen a march on its mainland counterpart by already approving the equivalent of a new 'Clause Four' statement of its aims and values.

The Manx Labour Party, which has a long history but is not affiliated to mainland Labour, has already approved - at an annual conference last weekend - a new declaration to replace a clause in its constitution closely modelled on the 76-year-old Clause IV drawn up by Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

In a demonstration of the Manx party's independence, the archaic clause, calling for the 'common ownership of the means of production' was actually Clause IIIb in its constitution. With the strong backing of its chairman Roy Cain, the Manx party has produced a crisp and up to date new definition of its 'objects and objectives'.

It reads: 'To promote the political, social, and economic emancipation of the people of the Isle of Man and to fight against social injustice and intolerance.'

Whether Tony Blair will have anything like as smooth a time producing such a simple definition over the next few months is, to say the least, doubtful.

The Labour Party on the Isle of Man is very much a minority force but it has been strengthened by unease among Manx people about UK legislation, for example on sex equality, not being applied on the island.

The Tynwald, the main legislature, has three Labour members out of a total of 24. And there is one Labour member of the upper House, the legislative council. The Manx party is fiercely proud of its independence.

Bev Sharpe, secretary of the island's Ramsey branch, explained that the clause had been changed as part of a general revision of the party's appeal to the Manx population. 'We are a bit of an endangered minority here,' he said.

The party is not represented at the annual mainland Labour conference and the timing of its decision was a coincidence. But it hopes that the change will increase its electoral fortunes in an island that is traditionally conservative - both politically and socially.

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