Youth present Blair with first Clause IV vote

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair's campaign to change Clause IV faces its first test at the hands of party members today when members of Young Labour will vote to retain or change it.

The Labour leader put his case for the rewrite of the party's nationalisation commitment to them at an informal reception in Brighton last night, ahead of a vote by the 350-strong delegates to the first ever national conference of Young Labour today. While victory would not signify much, defeat would be an embarrassment for Mr Blair, who faces much sterner tests of the party's view. The first comes on 10 March in Inverness when the Scottish Labour conference meets. A string of pro-Clause IV resolutions have been tabled for the debate which takes places three days before the national executive is to discuss the wording for Clause IV's replacement.

Young Labour - formed in 1993 to replace the once Militant-dominated Labour Party Young Socialists - is made up of members aged under 26, including student and trade union sections. With almost 18,000 members it is claimed to be the fastest growing part of Labour's expanding membership.

The closed conference will be faced today with a resolution defending Clause IV, but also with a lengthy composite arguing the need for change. It says the clause needs updating, pointing out that it calls for mass nationalisation on a scale never attempted by a Labour government.

The composite adds, however, that the replacement clause should include a commitment to public ownership as well as to social justice and democracy.

The conference will be addressed before it votes by John Prescott, the deputy leader, and some delegates are likely to be mandated, but the debate represents Mr Blair's first chance outside the national executive to show he can deliver votes in favour ofrewriting Labour's constitution.

Young Labour has no formal vote at the special conference which will decide the fate of Clause IV on 29 April.