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 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 09/99: Conference 99  
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Conference 99 Monday, 4 October, 1999, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Labour at mid-term
Tony Blair's Labour Party is looking to the next election
A guide to key issues at this year's Labour conference:

The Labour conference in Bournemouth was the third since the party came to power and found the government still in remarkably good shape.

Tony Blair is still riding in high in the polls, especially for a prime minister who's government is well into the tricky mid-term of the political cycle.

But inevitably some wear and tear is beginning to show.

Early pledges

Of Labour's famous five early pledges, four are yet to be delivered.

Conference99
And the problems faced by the government in bringing down hospital waiting lists and class sizes have been the source of some frustration.

The tension between the government and the unions, particularly over public sector pay and union rights, was also evident not only at the TUC conference but at Bournemouth.

Hostility from the rank-and-file towards the privatisation of the Post Office also found its way to this year's conference but last minute meetings between ministers and unions averted a full-scale confrontation.

Devolving power

Much has happened since last year's conference and instead of being simply a manifesto commitment the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly are now political realities.

Devolution for London, yet to be delivered, was also an issue at conference, and apparently changed the mind of Health Secretary Frank Dobson who is now certain to stand for the new post.

While the Liberal Democrats have already chosen their candidate for mayor and the Tories have elected Lord Archer to stand for them, Labour has not even worked out a selection process.

The reasons for this may be many but the issue of whether the early front runner 'Red' Ken Livingstone may be allowed to stand lies at the heart of the matter.

The prime minister has not yet endorsed any candidate, although as he comes from the Labour old school Mr Livingstone is unlikely to get Millbank's blessing.

If he is blocked then all the accusations over control freakery raised during the Welsh leadership selection process are certain to re-surface.

Partnership in power

The conference was never likely to provide any real upsets for the party leadership.

Especially not since the 'partnership in power' reforms have made the likelihood of the membership voting down the leadership's policies much less likely.

Even the occasionally embarrassing elections for the party's National Executive Committee are not all announced at conference, leading to charges from some that Labour's conference is moving away from its traditional role as the party's supreme decision making body and becoming much more stage managed and Americanised.

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