Rift grows in debate over future of Labour

INTERNAL divisions over the future of the Labour Party deepened yesterday as a national executive member said she feared a project 'to dump the unions and the poor', and Roy Hattersley, its former deputy leader, said Labour had to look at targeting benefits.

The continuing row over the 'Clintonisation' of Labour overshadowed John Smith's attempts in a television interview yesterday to stress reviving Britain's economy, revamping its 'antiquated constitution' and turning the social security system into a springboard for opportunity as key Labour themes.

The debate between the 'modernisers' and the 'traditionalists' also become more personal as Mr Hattersley accused John Prescott - a rival for the deputy leadership in the 1980s - in a Sunday Times article of trivialising the debate. He charged that 'in the Prescott analysis, the litmus test of genuine socialism is opposition to the Maastricht treaty, support for a basically undemocratic party constitution and willingness to go on losing general elections'.

Mr Hattersley argued that a party committed to redistribution could not continue mortgage tax relief - a course now thought to be under review for the medium term by the Conservatives - but equally had to discuss targeting benefits. Labour, he said, 'cannot pretend that it does not have to choose between concentrating help on those in greatest need and spreading the available funds thinly over rich and poor alike'.

Mr Smith, on Breakfast with Frost, defended universal child benefit but said the state should be enabling. 'What the state ought to do these days is not go round to people and say 'Look, we will guarantee everything for you'; what they ought to say is 'Look, here's an opportunity'.'

After a weekend conference with key advisers to President- elect Bill Clinton, Mr Smith said there were lessons to be learned but he ruled out 'Clintonisation' of policy.

Mr Smith's comments, however, came as Patricia Hewitt and Philip Gould, two key Labour advisers, argued in the first edition of a Labour journal, Renewal, that the first lesson of the Clinton campaign was to forge 'a new political identity', rather than to be seen, like Labour, as 'the party of the poor and the past'.

Clare Short, a Labour frontbencher and national executive member, said she feared Mr Clinton's victory was being used to 'legitimise' an agenda 'to get rid of all our old values, be embarrassed about the unions, and don't talk about the poor'.

There was no point in having a Labour Party, she said on BBC Radio 4's The World this Weekend, if it 'dumps the unions and the poor'.

Donald Dewar, the party's social security spokesman, attempted to calm such fears in a speech in Oxford. He rejected the idea that 'Labour must be beastly to the poor to convince Essex man that we are on his side'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before