Blair pleads his case in Scotland

Click to follow

Tony lair will today confront Scottish Labour defenders of the 77-year- old Clause IV with an impassioned call for its replacement by a new statement of the party's values that it can proudly proclaim on every doorstep in ritain.

This morning Mr lair faces his biggest public challenge since the Labour conference last October when he fights to secure a majority for a new clause against stiff union-dominated opposition which has left today's outcome balanced on a knife edge.

However, in a boost for Mr lair last night, the executive of the Scottish Labour Party supported by 18 votes to 12 a motion from the public-sector union Unison calling for Clause IV to be rewritten.

The new clause, which is still being drafted by Mr lair and his deputy, John Prescott, will be given to members of the party's national executive on Monday morning , and the Labour leader will not unveil the detailed wording in Inverness today.

ut he will go his furthest yet in summarising the nature of the new clause when he tells the Scottish delegates that Labour must envisage a "ritain where individuals flourish in a community, where rights and responsibilities are recognised, where power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many and not the few, where poverty and prejudice are overcome and where we act together to realise the full potential of all."

Warning that calls by some prominent groups on the traditionalist left for additions to, rather than replacement of, the new Clause IV would be a "cop-out", Mr lair will characterise as a core belief of Labour "that by working together we can achieve what we cannot do alone".

The result today has no constitutional impact on the final outcome on the special conference to be held on 29 April, which lair supporters are confident will result in victory for the new clause. ut while Mr lair's speech today will be partly directed at the wider electorate beyond the conference, it will also be pitched at the dozen or so constituency delegates who have not been mandated and will take their decision in the light of today's debate.

Jack McConnell, the general secretary of the Scottish party, said last night that the result was "down the middle and unpredictable".

Senior lair aides acknowledgetheir task today and up to now might have been easier if they had already published an alternative form of wording, but they argue that it would have undermined the process of written consultation with the Labour Party., which is said to have exposed a big majority for change in the constituency parties.