Unions resist Blair appeal

BY COLIN BROWN

Chief Political Correspondent

Labour Party leaders went on the offensive last night by accusing some union leaders of being out of touch with their members for opposing Tony Blair's appeal to change the party's Clause IV commitment to public ownership.

But a leaked internal report from Unison, the public service workers' union, obtained by the Independent, showed that the Labour leadership may have misjudged the mood among rank-and-file trade unionists, who are opposed to the change.

The survey by Unison - which narrowly rejected Mr Blair's proposed change at its conference on Thursday - shows the union's vote accurately reflected the split in the rank and file over the modernisation.

The findings will reinforce the view among Labour's critics that the trade union movement is proving resistant to Mr Blair's attempts to widen the party's appeal to Tory voters in Middle England. One of his lieutenants said: "Tony has won over the constituencies, but he has not included the trade unions in his programme... It is a group of activists who feel he is not listening to them. He is appealing to Tory voters. He is not singing their tune. But he cannot ignore the trade union activists.''

The Unison survey of its grassroots members said: "It is widely accepted that the current Clause IV does not express our values and beliefs clearly.

"However, there is widespread support for the continued principle of common or public ownership to be retained. A number of regions feel that the current Clause IV best expresses that commitment."

One key finding is that union members believe the row over Clause IV was unnecessary, divisive and potentially damaging to the party. Alan Simpson, the MP for Nottingham South and a leading member of the Defend Clause IV campaign, said: "It is consistent with the messages that we are getting all around the country."

The union is now almost certain to cast its vote against Mr Blair at the special conference. The TGWU delegation is also expected to vote against.

The outcome could now depend on the white-collar union MSF and Usdaw, the shop workers' union. Neither is carrying out a ballot, but both are expected to support Mr Blair's demands for change.

Labour leaders warned trade unions last night that there would be "no deals" and "no trade-offs" by Mr Blair to secure their support for the change to Clause IV of the party's constitution at the special conference on 29 April, after the rebuff by Unison. Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor, said the modernisation process would go on, despite the setback.

His uncompromising message was reinforced by Donald Dewar, who stated: "Compromise is not on the agenda."

Clause IV debate, page 2

Leading article, page 14

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference