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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 July, 2004, 23:37 GMT 00:37 UK
Labour looks ahead to third term
Tony Blair
Mr Blair created the National Policy Forum in 1998
Labour's National Policy Forum meets on Friday when it is set to discuss some of the key areas for its next general election manifesto.

The forum includes 183 trade unionists, MPs, MEPs, councillors and members of Labour's ruling NEC.

Ahead of the conference, unions and business have been setting out their stalls for what they would like a re-elected Labour government to focus on.

A deal to end the two-tier situation of public workers will be on the agenda.

Union policy

Unions are also lobbying for new workers rights, equal pay and greater protection for pensions.

What is the NPF?
Replaced conference as Labour's policy making body in 1998
Labour says it gives ordinary members a say on policy
Meets twice a year and submits policy suggestions to conference
A survey commissioned by Amicus suggests wide support among Labour activists for government action in these areas.

The poll indicates that four out of five of 305 activists from the Midlands, North West, North East, Yorkshire and Scotland believe that adopting union policies on pensions, manufacturing, pay and public services would boost Labour's chances of a third term.

Most questioned also said the government's private finance initiative (PFI) was not an efficient use of public money.

Radical manifesto call

Derek Simpson, general secretary of Amicus, said: "This survey shows a dangerous disenchantment by Labour Party activists with fundamental aspects of the government's agenda.

Derek Simpson
Mr Simpson has long called for a return to traditional Labour priorities
"It demonstrates that the people who will be expected to campaign for the party in the next election do not believe key policies are popular or provide the best chance of delivering victory in the next election.

"We believe that a third term can be achieved with a radical manifesto which deals with the most important issues to the electorate, on public services, pensions, manufacturing and fairness at work."

Unison's Dave Prentis meanwhile said the survey showed the government should listen to its natural supporters.

"Unless it alters its direction of travel, that third term could be in jeopardy," he argued.

Mind the gap?

Transport and General Workers Union general secretary Tony Woodley said: "The gap between the leadership and the grassroots of the party has never been wider and the pressure is on to come up with a manifesto the whole of the party can unite behind to deliver a third term."

NPF membership
Constituency Labour Parties 55
Regions 22
Trade Unions 30
MPs 9
MEPs 6
Government 8
Socialist societies 3
Co-operative Party 2
Peers 2
Black Socialist Society 4
Labour Students 1
Local Government 9
NEC 32
And GMB boss Kevin Curran said activists and unionists wanted to say a "radical" agenda that justified Labour's landslide victories.

But the head of bosses group the CBI warned that Labour supporters should not seek to undermine New Labour's pro-business credentials.

Writing in the left-wing Tribune magazine, Digby Jones said that Labour had delivered "seven years of competent economic management".

Flexible labour?

"Business people used to lack confidence in the ability of Labour to carry out a primary task of government: to run an economically competent administration," he wrote.

Digby Jones
Mr Jones warned against losing labour market flexibility
"This is no longer the case thanks to the current government's commitment to macro-economic stability, sound public finances and a flexible labour market.

"Low inflation, low interest rates, virtually no unemployment and good sustainable growth - all happening at the same time - has eluded this great country of ours for over a century.

"It is now here and surely we all want it to stay."

Accept or reject

Labour's National Policy forum replaced the annual conference as Labour's policy making body in 1998.

Party managers say it gives ordinary members a say in the creation of Labour policy.

The NPF meets at least twice a year and submits its policy recommendations to the annual conference which can vote to accept or reject, but not alter.

A spokesman for the Labour Party told BBC News Online they did not wish to comment on the NPF conference.

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