Blair comes under pressure to revisit 'vague' Clause 4

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Tony Blair is under pressure to rewrite Clause 4 of Labour's constitution for a second time so that the party can map out a forward-looking agenda on issues such as equality and possible military intervention in other countries.

Tony Blair is under pressure to rewrite Clause 4 of Labour's constitution for a second time so that the party can map out a forward-looking agenda on issues such as equality and possible military intervention in other countries.

Ten years after Mr Blair stunned Labour's annual conference with a controversial pledge to review Clause 4, modernisers are to launch a campaign to update the party's statement of its aims and values to reflect the challenges it would face if it wins a third term. The demands are being led by the Fabian Society, whose leading light Sidney Webb wrote the original 1918 version of Clause 4, including the party's commitment to "common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange". In 1995, in one of New Labour's most symbolic acts, the party adopted a Blairite formula that dropped the party's commitment to public ownership, speaking instead of "a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few".

But there is a growing feeling that the 1995 formula is too vague and does not amount to a positive statement of the party's policies. Critics believe the 1995 revision spelt out what Labour was against but not what it stands for - a frequent criticism of the Blair project.

Richard Brooks, research director at the Fabian Society, said: "If the party is to maintain cohesion and vigour, it must be able to debate its values and vision every political generation, not just once a century." He said there was little in the 1995 statement with which most Liberal Democrats or moderate Tories would disagree, while many Labour members could not identify with it.

Launching the debate in the new edition of Fabian Review, the society says the 1995 version ducked some of the most difficult internal Labour debates - particularly over the meaning and importance of equality. It suggests that the party should consider committing itself to "reducing inequality of outcomes" , "achieving equality of opportunity" or providing minimum standards for all.

The Fabians also want the Labour rulebook to be more explicit on international affairs - a sensitive issue after the Iraq war. They ask whether the constitution says enough "about our response to terrorism, extremism and failed states", or about when military force should be used. They conclude: "To reconsider Clause 4 10 years on would not be an exercise in navel-gazing; it would be to engage in the fundamental process of political renewal."

The call will be debated in the margins of this month's Labour conference in Brighton and the society will hold a series of events around the country about a new Clause 4.

Although Mr Blair may be wary of reopening the debate about Labour's constitution, the move has already won the support of some Blairites. The Education minister, Stephen Twigg, said the debate could re-energise the party. "Ten years ago those who didn't want to change Clause 4 said debating it was a distraction from beating the Conservatives," he said. "That was wrong then, and it's wrong now. Parties of the left need to be constantly renewing themselves and their ideas."

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