Left gives Blair policy challenge

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

LABOUR'S hard left yesterday fired the first of a wave of expected salvoes against Tony Blair, the party leadership favourite, over his refusal to make policy commitments to deliver full employment and economic recovery.

Alan Simpson, the MP for Nottingham South and secretary of the socialist Campaign Group of MPs insisted in a letter that an incoming Labour government could not reverse the collapse of manufacturing industry and under-investment of the Thatcher years without increasing taxes.

'Even restoring the top tax rates merely to the European average . . . could be a real springboard for the rebuilding of Britain's infrastructure.

'It needs practical commitment of this sort to give any credibility to our own claim to be able to deliver full employment back into the hands and lives of the British people. This . . . is the real challenge which faces you.'

Mr Simpson said it was in the 'world of practicalities' that Labour had to show it had something different to vote for.

He added: 'My mother says that the trouble with the Labour party . . . is that we are like a bunch of tulips. Stood in a vase on the middle of the table we can look very pretty. But after a couple of days in the sunlight the stems wilt and the leaves start to fall off. We don't stand up well to strong sunlight and close scrutiny.'

'It seems to me that there is a desperate longing in the country for a Labour Party which was not ashamed of standing up and offering a practical programme for full employment and economic recovery.

The list of commitments demanded of the shadow Home Secretary includes restoring full employment by home-building and infrastructure investment, the defence of universal benefits, the renewal of the link between pensions and average earnings and bringing water, rail and coal back into public ownership.