Union-link review body offers no blueprint

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LABOUR'S review group on union links yesterday abandoned an attempt to draw up a blueprint for reforming the relationship.

The decision effectively increases the chance that John Smith's preferred option of one member one vote will be introduced for the election of the leadership and selection of MPs.

At the heart of the conflict is the insistence of most of the big unions that they should retain voting power.

The committee decided that there would be no clear recommendation on the issue to the Labour executive, which in turn is expected to delay a decision until after the union conference season which ends next summer. It is hoped that a final verdict will be delivered by the party conference next October.

Originally, the committee was to reach a conclusion in time for the party's national executive committee meeting on 16 December. A final paper, to rehearse the options rather than make recommendations will not be finalised until the NEC meeting in January or possibly February.

Postponement came after disquiet among the party leadership over a paper prepared by the Labour secratariat which seemed to summarise review group discussions as moving towards the concept of 'registered supporters' of the party. That meant that, for both leadership elections and selection of MPs, political levy payers could register as backers of the party and participate in an electoral college.

Supporters of one member one vote - which Mr Smith has said must be 'the clear principle' on which major decisions are taken - believe it now stands a far better chance of being adopted.

Many smaller unions, they believe, would find the registered voter system too complex and expensive to operate, and will thus oppose it, while they expect the constituencies - who will have 30 per cent of the votes at next year's conference - to do the same.