Smith to counter charges of a lack of leadership

JOHN SMITH will counter charges of lack of leadership by spelling out his views on electoral reform and Labour's links with the unions well ahead of this year's party conference, according to senior aides, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Some Labour MPs are increasingly restive at the apparent drift in party policy as Mr Smith continues to let internal debates run through working parties on the issues while refusing to declare his position. He shed little light on either issue yesterday in a television interview on Breakfast with Frost, although he said the block vote, in the shape of 'one trade union general secretary casting millions of votes', would cease, and the guiding principle would be to 'individualise' the block vote. That would imply union delegates at party conference voting individually with the possibility of an individual union's vote being split, although critics argue that on many issues the change would be little more than cosmetic.