Labour 'must say sorry to voters'

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Indy Politics
LABOUR should apologise to the electorate for its past behaviour, rewrite its constitution, radically rethink its welfare policies and bring back the goal of full employment, according to a senior Labour backbencher.

Frank Field said the trade union block vote should be abolished and the 'nationalisation' clause in the party constitution should be dropped.

In the first of four lectures to a conference in Durham, Mr Field said Labour should learn from President Bill Clinton's determination to destroy his links with the old, traditional Democratic party and 'make a virtue out of apologising for its past'.

Much did change under Neil Kinnock, Mr Field said, but the changes were mainly presented as though nothing much had in fact altered. Bigger changes now needed to be made. 'An apology in words has to be followed with action,' he said. It should start with the party's structure.

That had to be reformed 'to prevent a situation occurring again (as in the early 1980s) where pressure from minority groups results in a large part of the party leadership commending to voters views and policies upon which, without that pressure, they have since recanted'.

Labour should change its constitution on the assumption that the days of mass parties are over, he said. The leader should be elected only by MPs, with the trade union vote disappearing.

A post of 'party president' should be created, elected by one member one vote, to represent the party in the country in the shadow Cabinet. Trade unions should have influence only to the extent to which individual trade unionists are party members but trade unions should be able to present policy proposals to the national executive and conference.

The conference, however, should become a debating forum, with policy adopted by a postal vote of the membership.

In the past, Labour had promised to 'bring about an irreversible shift of wealth and power to ordinary people' - and should do that by relating to the aspirations of ordinary voters.

One way to do that was to allow people to own their own part of the pension funds which control half of British industry, while Labour must back 'a determined attempt to achieve full employment'.

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