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banner Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, 19:44 GMT 20:44 UK
The vision thing
"New Labour can and must raise its sights in its second term."

That was the message on the conference fringe from the party's election campaign co-ordinator Peter Mandelson, speaking on a stormy night in Brighton.

But on the same day the party leadership was heavily defeated by trade unions and delegates demanding a return to the link between pensions and earnings, it was very clear what Mr Mandelson meant when he called on the party to dedicate itself to winning a second term.

"By being more ambitious, I don't mean being more left-wing," he declared.

The Northern Ireland secretary was speaking at a packed meeting held by the centre-left IPPR think tank on Labour's priorities for a second term.

Sharing the platform with Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, journalist Polly Toynbee and former deputy Labour leader Roy Hattersley, Mr Mandelson put the case for a more dynamic administration after the next election.

The government should move from "a safe pair of hands to being a more proactive shaper of Britain's destiny."

Labour should not just aspire to govern, he said, but should also seek to reform the nation as a whole.

Focus was essential, he said; putting education first had been a mission in the first term and it was a task that should be completed in a second - should there be one.

Looking back to the Attlee government's creation of the NHS after the war, he said Labour should "establish a cradle to the grave education service to match the health service that we already have".

In contrast, Polly Toynbee's agenda was sparse. On re-election Tony Blair, she said, should bring in a media ownership bill to break up the empire of Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sun and the Times.

"It is insane", she said, " that in this country we have one man who owns 41% of all newspaper readership and he is not even an EU citizen."

Most things, the Guardian writer added, that were worst about the UK "come from a right-wing press that is now intent on destroying this government".

Next up was the foreign secretary. "A commitment to full employment," he said, "will be at the centre of the next Labour manifesto".

And as chair of Labour's National Policy Forum, Mr Cook should know.

As well as bringing environmentalism to the fore, in its a second term Labour should continue to modernise government and "keep our nerve on proportional representation" - if only to make sure voters across the country had an equal feeling that their votes mattered.

In future, the party should not be afraid to "admit when it agrees with other parties."

With Labour's poll rating curently on the slide, links between the party and the Liberal Democrats may out of necessity be closer after the election most observers are expecting next spring.

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