Quotas ditched as poll taskforce mobilises

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Labour yesterday approved the machinery for fighting a long general election campaign, as the party's National Executive Committee approved a blueprint drawn up at a management school to assign staff to 11 "flexible and non-hierarchical taskforces".

To clear the way for the campaign, the NEC also decided unanimously to abandon the legal battle to save its policy of reserving half of "winnable" parliamentary seats for women.

This will allow the speedy completion of the stalled process of choosing candidates.

The "project-based" taskforce structure is designed to "build a machine which is capable of delivering a first-class general election campaign", according to a document presented by the party general secretary, Tom Sawyer.

The document, on "priorities and targets" for 1996, was drawn up using ideas on "project management techniques" studied by a group of NEC members at the Cranfield School of Management.

It refers to the party's new "mission statement", one of the key goals of which is "securing victory at the next general election", and says: "To ensure we achieve our goal, we have put in place a radical new structure that is flexible and responsive."

Labour advertised on Monday for six staff, including three media monitoring officers, members of the Media taskforce, to "monitor broadcast and print media 24 hours a day and spot opportunities for Labour".

Other taskforces include Projection, charged with achieving a "coherent visual presentation strategy"; Rapid Response, to provide "campaign information ... to politicians and the party"; and Key Campaigners, to back up leading Labour politicians and "establish a database of endorsements from the business, art and sports world".

The document, which also looks at how to strengthen the relationship between a Labour government and the party,includes a note called "The Party in Power", which looks at how to "learn from the experience of the 1970s" to strengthen the relationship between a Labour government and the party. It promises a package ofmeasures expected to reduce trade union representation on the NEC.