Smith firm on Labour voting rules

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JOHN SMITH, the Labour leader, is sticking to his plan for party democracy despite the prospect of being heavily outvoted by most of Britain's big unions when it reaches the autumn conference.

Five out of six of the party's biggest affiliates are against Mr Smith's vision of one member, one vote (Omov) for internal party elections - including the 'levy-plus' compromise he decided to back last week, which would allow political levy-paying trade unionists to become Labour members for cut-price subscriptions.

But a source close to Mr Smith said yesterday that he was unfazed by the opposition, which was stepped up on Tuesday when the white-collar MSF union voted overwhelmingly against the scheme.

In a speech today, John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB general union, Mr Smith's sponsoring union, will argue for 'democratising' the trade union link by balloting members on decisions. But the source said: 'He wants to give individual members the power, not just individuals.'

The differences presage a fierce battle before the autumn conference.

The Parliamentary Labour Party yesterday approved new rules for elections of the Shadow Cabinet, the PLP chairman and the Chief Whip. The changes follow allegations last year of ballot-rigging and the bartering of blank ballot papers.