Smith focuses on the unemployed

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Indy Politics
LABOUR aims to make unemployment 'a central political issue' John Smith, the party leader, said yesterday after an all-day meeting of the shadow Cabinet.

But how far Labour plans to commit itself to full employment remained unclear as Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, said the first stage was getting rid of mass unemployment.

With unemployment likely to top three million this week for the second time since the Conservatives took power in 1979, Mr Smith said Labour would be 'unremitting in our arguments for bringing unemployment down and putting that as a central political issue'.

Mr Brown said full employment was 'of course an aspiration of the Labour movement. But the first stage towards that is getting rid of mass unemployment.' Labour would spell out details of its Budget for Jobs this week, arguing that no one should be unemployed for more than a year without an offer of a job or training.

The shadow Chancellor is to make a series of speeches which it is said will flesh out more of Labour's 'new economics' as Mr Smith said the Shadow Cabinet had agreed three tests to be applied to each of Labour's future policies - 'was it radical, was it practical and was it popular'.

That meant radical in the sense that they would produce 'real change' and popular in the sense that they carried 'the consent and goodwill of the people'.

The party plans three consultation exercises beginning in the summer and seeking a consensus on an industrial strategy and on health and education policies. Labour has to adjust to grant maintained schools, NHS trusts and GP fundholding being the norm by the time of the next election.

Mr Smith's Bournemouth speech last week was trailed as the final dumping of nationalisation, with his declaration that ownership was now 'largely irrelevant'. However, the Labour leader said the party remained 'totally opposed' to the privatisation of Scottish water.