Blair launches Labour policy reviews

Tony Blair is launching a series of policy reviews
Tony Blair is launching a series of policy reviews

Tony Blair will launch a series of policy reviews at next week's party conference to help prepare Labour for the challenges of the next ten years.

The prime minister will brief the cabinet on the proposals this Wednesday, in an attempt to seize back control of the government.

Mr Blair's authority has been severely damaged in the past few weeks following a bout of Labour infighting that forced him to announce he would quit within a year.

But the review, which will involve cabinet and junior ministers, is a sign that he is determined not to be a "lame duck" prime minister.

It will focus on four main areas that Mr Blair believes will be key to winning the next election - economic competitiveness, public services and reform, security and migration and foreign policy.

They are to report back at the end of this year and will be fed into the Treasury's comprehensive spending review, which is due some time after May.

"The prime minister and chancellor both agree that the key to success is a strong, unified policy agenda. This process will be inclusive and.will show the country and the government is united and moving forward," a Downing Street aide said last night.

The timing of the review suggests Mr Blair has no intention of quitting before the May elections, as some have suggested he should. Europe minister Geoff Hoon warned on Friday that failing to do so could harm Labour's poll chances.

It also threatens to break up the uneasy truce that has existed between the supporters of Mr Blair and his expected successor, Gordon Brown, for the past week since the prime minister announced his departure timetable.

Last night former Labour minister and rebel MP Peter Kilfoyle warned that Mr Blair's announcement of a policy review could "poison the atmosphere" at next week's party conference in Manchester.

"It seems entirely presumptuous for him to be trying to set our policies when he will be gone by next summer or maybe even sooner," he told The Daily Telegraph.

However, yesterday Labour chairwoman Hazel Blears warned that fuelling the speculation about Mr Blair's departure only helped the Conservatives.

"We squabble at our peril. I do not want to see another Tory government in this country," she told BBC Two's The Politics Show.

"I know what it did to my community, and I know what it did to the economy as a whole. We should have that in our minds as we go through the next few weeks and months."

An ICM poll for The Daily Mirror yesterday showed 45 per cent of voters wanted Mr Blair to stand down immediately. However, it also showed the Tories' lead in the poll had been cut to four points.

Ms Blears said: "I am delighted this morning that in the polls the Tory lead has actually been halved, and we've got to make sure that we continue in that way - we continue to address the policy issues of jobs and pensions, and some of the international matters like Darfur."


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