Smith tightens grip on Labour

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The Independent Online
JOHN SMITH will this week attempt to reassert his authority over a fractious Labour Party by pledging to continue the reform of the party machinery, and by ordering Shadow Cabinet colleagues not to bicker in public.

Mr Smith, who will be interviewed live by David Frost this morning, hopes to use the programme to stress his commitment to the principle of one member one vote, and the reduction - or even abolition - of the union block vote at party conference.

When the Commons reassembles this week, the Labour leader will use private meetings and the usual gathering of the Shadow Cabinet to remind senior Labour politicians of their obligations under collective responsibility. Mr Smith has been alarmed by the spectacle of Labour politicians attacking each other publicly.

Yesterday, Neil Kinnock, the former leader, increased the pressure on Mr Smith by urging the party to continue modernisation and by attacking critics of reform - the so-called consolidators.

Mr Kinnock supported those arguing for modernisation of the party by attending a conference in London on the economics of the President-elect of the United States, Bill Clinton. Afterwards he said: 'Anybody who isn't a moderniser shouldn't be in the Labour Party.'

In a veiled attack on left-wing critics in the Shadow Cabinet, such as John Prescott, Mr Kinnock said Labour's recent poor publicity was 'more a product of slack news days and perhaps an overdeveloped sense of publicity among one or two members'.

Mr Kinnock welcomed the event as 'an opportunity to exchange information,' but added: 'None of our American friends believe they have developed a plan which can be transported to British soil.'

The conference, sponsored by the Transport & General Workers' Union, the Guardian and the European Policy Institute, was preceded by a meeting of US advisers with the Labour leader's committee on Friday night.

After that meeting, Mr Prescott said that the Democrats had kept their polling experts under control. By contrast, Labour's pollsters had had more influence over policy-making.

The contrast between the tax plans proposed by the Democrats and the Labour Party emerged clearly yesterday. Elaine Kamarck, senior fellow of the Progessive Policy Unit, said the Democrats' tax plans had been designed to hit a small proportion of the population - those earning more than dollars 200,000 a year.