Executive backs one-member one-vote plan: Labour moves to cut subscription

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LABOUR leaders paved the way yesterday for a cut-rate subscription for all members in an exercise designed to bolster John Smith's controversial plans for one-member, one-vote party democracy.

Labour's national executive decided to recommend an annual membership subscription of pounds 3 for the 4.5 million trade union members who already pay a pounds 1.70 political levy - a discount on the pounds 5 subscription charge for the unemployed and pensioners.

If the Brighton party conference agrees, trade union registered members who pay the additional pounds 3 would be entitled to individual votes in the selection of parliamentary candidates.

However, it was also agreed that while the standard subscription of pounds 18 a year should be cut to pounds 15, many party members could find themselves paying considerably less under the terms of a free enterprise scheme sanctioned by the executive.

The NEC decided to back a rule change under which constituency parties will be able to ask for a dispensation to charge members a nominal membership fee - on condition that the pounds 10-a-member subscription that is payable to the national party is raised from other activities.

Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said last night that Labour had to fight the next election on 'strong economic themes, not a detailed list of measures . . . for every economic crisis of the moment'.

Pointing to the 'parallels with the strategy pursued by the Tories' under Margaret Thatcher in the run-up to the 1979 election, he said: 'They eschewed detailed plans on spending, but rather punched across a broad set of messages around the notions that the Labour Government was taxing, spending and borrowing too much, trades unionism was too powerful and that individuals - they said - had too little incentive to work.'

Mr Brown said: 'Labour believes that individual aspiration is realised best within a strong and active community that will act as such.'