Smith plans New Year offensive

JOHN SMITH will hit back after recent criticisms of his leadership of the Labour Party with a New Year policy offensive that will include a full endorsement of a Bill of Rights.

This marks a shift for the party which, before the general election, fought shy of formally backing a Bill of Rights to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law.

Mr Smith will provide details of his new thinking on the issue in a speech which will also highlight what he sees as declining standards in public life. He believes that, during a fourth term of Conservative government, ministers no longer feel the need to account for their actions.

Labour strategists believe the policy offensive will enable Mr Smith to give his leadership a more distinctive character, following criticism of the lack of radical thought in the party from several Opposition quarters. Nick Raynsford, MP for Greenwich, has said that Labour risked 'sleepwalking into oblivion', and Bryan Gould, the former Shadow Cabinet member, and the Labour Co-ordinating Committee have also voiced concern.

In recent months, shadow ministers have concentrated on opposition to the Government over pit closures, the 'Iraqgate' scandal, economic policy and Europe. Mr Smith wants to move into a new phase where the party begins to propose alternatives.

Economic policy will form a central plank of the New Year offensive, with Gordon Brown, the shadow Chancellor, arguing for greater intervention to tackle unemployment.

Yesterday Mr Brown promised a programme for national recovery. 'The fear of unemployment is still paralysing much of the economy, and is the biggest barrier to consumer confidence and spending,' he said.

On constitutional issues, a Labour working group, chaired by Tony Blair, the shadow Home Secretary, and Richard Rosser, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, will report to the party conference next autumn.

However, Mr Smith has already decided to take a lead on the Bill of Rights, which would spell out a range of individual rights. Roy Hattersley, the former shadow Home Secretary, was a staunch opponent of such a Bill, causing friction with some sections of the centre-left.

Last year, in an attempt to unite constitutional reformers behind Labour, Mr Hattersley modified his position by backing a 'statement of principles' which could act as a 'backstop' where the existing law was found wanting.

The statement, or Charter of Rights, would 'guide and govern the courts where, and only where, the specific law was silent'. Labour, however, went into the last election committed to a Freedom of Information Bill. The Conservatives remain opposed to any Bill or Charter of Rights.

Meantime, debate over social policy looks set to continue this week with a Fabian Society pamphlet written by Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead and chairman of the social security select committee.

Responding to the establishment of the Social Justice Commission, Mr Field will suggest a rethink of welfare policy. He will also challenge the role of the trade unions, arguing that they should adopt a function closer to their orginal role as friendly societies.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Web Developer- CSS, HMTL

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

AX Developer With EPOS Experience

£450 - £500 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Dynamics AX / Developer / AX2012...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz