Labour policy review launched

Tony Blair launches six policy reviews to look at future Labour policy
Tony Blair launches six policy reviews to look at future Labour policy

The cabinet has backed Tony Blair's plans to begin a wholesale review of Labour's future policy, widely seen as an attempt to direct the party's policy after he leaves.

Six working groups will be set up, made up of ministers and experts from outside government, and their conclusions will inform the 2007 comprehensive spending review, which defines funding priorities for the following three years.

The prime minister originally planned to launch the programme, named Pathways to the Future, last month. But amid concerns about his leadership, the process was delayed until after the Labour party conference to avoid rocking the boat further.

The groups will look at economic dynamism; environment and energy; public services; security, crime and justice; the role of the state; and British foreign relations, and Mr Blair's spokesman said the idea had been "enthusiastically endorsed" by the cabinet.

When the idea was first mooted there was speculation that it was an effort to tie the hands of Gordon Brown, who is widely expected to take over as prime minister when Mr Blair leaves, and make sure he continued the New Labour project.

But the spokesman said the chancellor had given his full backing to the idea, telling the cabinet meeting yesterday how important the process was to help the government and the country address the new challenges facing the world in the coming years.

Deputy prime minister John Prescott apparently described it as an "exciting project" and health secretary Patricia Hewitt said it would strengthen the public's faith in democracy.

Mr Blair told ministers the policy groups were a chance to "step back" from the day to day management of government to set out a strategy for Labour's future.

At the Labour conference last month, the prime minister stressed voters were concerned less about who was running things and more with "in an uncertain, insecure world, where there are massive opportunities but great difficulties, who has the agenda for the future".

Mr Blair will chair the whole process, although cabinet colleagues will chair the individual committees and it is unclear whether he will still be around when it ends.

The finer details are due to be announced next week, when the process of consulting the public, voluntary groups and the business sector will begin almost immediately.


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