Blair focuses on changing industry: Regeneration and education key themes

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Indy Politics
TONY BLAIR, firm favourite to lead the Labour Party, will today make education and 'industrial modernisation' two central themes of his 5,000-word personal leadership campaign statement.

The key document of Mr Blair's campaign, to be published today, says: 'It is not the job of government to protect industry from change. We should be the advocates of change. The statement stamps Labour as a party seeking 'the highest standards of education for every child' and the 'maximum involvement of parents in their children's education and their children's schools'.

As further evidence of his commitment to political and national 'renewal' Mr Blair will emphasise the Labour goal of 'increasing the chances for lifelong education and for all those who want it'.

Mr Blair will set out his own 'new left' agenda. The centrepiece will be a 'contract' between individuals and society on the themes of opportunity, security and responsibility.

Margaret Beckett angered colleagues yesterday by hinting that she may not seek re-election to the Shadow Cabinet if she fails to win the leadership or the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.

Her doubts about serving in a Shadow Cabinet led by Tony Blair caused dismay among her front-bench colleagues. 'She won't do herself any favours by saying she is going to sulk and take her bat away,' one senior colleague said.

Left-wing Campaign Group MPs saw her remarks as confirmation that she is prepared to act as a focus on the backbench for a left- wing agenda on the economy, which the left fears Mr Blair will fail to deliver.

Mrs Beckett was asked whether she would still want a place in the Shadow Cabinet if she failed to win either post. 'I don't know . . . I would have to think about that over the summer,' she said in the Daily Mirror. Her friends said that she was not admitting defeat. Her standing has been enhanced by her hard-hitting clashes with John Major at Prime Minister's questions, and she has told aides that she feels she has his 'measure'. A party source said: 'She got under Major's skin by treating him with disdain.'

Her supporters protested, at an ill-attended meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, at the sniping against her. 'There is a different story against her every day,' one MP complained.

John Prescott was challenged on BBC Radio about the risk of being squeezed between Mrs Beckett's appeal to the left and Mr Blair's appeal to modernisers over scrapping Tory trade union laws. 'I just want to put the case I believe in. It is one I developed in 1985. It was controversial at the time because the unions wanted to keep the immunities system . . . I wanted to develop a new framework.'