Labour's `luvvie' tendency tries Clause for thought

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Labour "luvvies" yesterday entered the wrangle over rewriting Clause IV of the party's constitution, unveiling no fewer than five suggested drafts.

The contributions, commissioned by the Labour-affiliated Fabian Society, come from the writers Fay Weldon, Michael Frayn, Zoe Fairbairns and the husband and wife team of Margaret Drabble and Michael Holroyd.

Lord Alf Dubs, the society's chairman, said it had asked the five to come up with their own versions because "too much of the debate about Clause IV has involved swapping dry and unexciting alternatives to an original series of words beyond their literalmeaning".

Evidently undeterred by the growing bad press accorded to Labour celebrities, Ms Weldon has offered two versions, both evoking the existing clause by calling for equitable distribution of the nation's wealth for everyone who "by hand or brain" contributes to it.

But only tangential reference is made to the hallowed principle of common ownership in the 1918 clause.

"Whether this end be best obtained by common ownership, or by effective organisation, that wealth should belong, and be seen to belong, to the generality of the people who create it," Ms Weldon writes in the first alternative.

Mr Frayn, perhaps mindful of the need for something neat to fit on a Labour Party membership card, has produced a mere 10 words: "To set some bounds to the tyranny of the fortunate."

The society, once the haven of Labour's statist middle-class tendency but now trying to re-invent itself, has votes worth about 0.5 per cent of the total at the 29 April special conference on the clause. Its executive has yet to decide whether to exercise them.

Ms Drabble and Mr Holroyd aver in their 136-word version that Labour is a "socialist" party, working for equal opportunities, redistribution of wealth, a peaceful world, trade union rights, a robust democracy and personal liberty.

Ms Fairbairns recognises the rights of the unwaged to fair reward and to ensure that the "means of production, distribution and exchange" - to quote the current clause - "whether privately or publicly owned, are controlled and managed with due regard forthe human labour and ingenuity that make their activities possible ..."