Labour looks to the future

Tony Blair today met with the “political” cabinet to discuss future policies of the Labour party.

The meeting – the first in a series of policy reviews – come ahead of the prime minister’s last party conference next week and as part of Mr Blair’s attempt to regain control of the government.

The prime minister was recently forced to confirm he would step down within a year following a row over his departure date, which severely damaged his authority.

The reviews – which will focus on economic competitiveness, public services and reform, security and migration and foreign policy – will determine Labour policy for the next general election.

The ministerial working groups or “political cabinet” will focus on party tactics and look at policy for the next ten years, and the findings will also inform next year’s comprehensive spending review.

In the light of the party infighting, they will provide a chance for Mr Blair to reassert his leadership over the cabinet and party agenda.

Aides have insisted that chancellor Gordon Brown – Mr Blair’s expected successor at Downing Street – supported the review.

However, it could renew tensions over the leadership at the Labour conference which starts in Manchester this weekend.

Despite confirming he would be gone within a year, details from the policy reviews will not be available until next spring, suggesting Mr Blair may not intend to stick to his timetable.

The prime minister and chancellor were joined by Mr Brown’s possible challenger for the leadership, education secretary Alan Johnson, home secretary John Reid and leader of the Commons Jack Straw.

Mr Reid, an arch Blairite, said yesterday at the Police Superintendents’ Association conference in Cheshire that he was quite happy with his current role.

“I have been very privileged in the number of posts I have had,” he stressed.

“I have no personal ambition to obtain any other high office.”

Today’s meeting is expected to include a discussion on Mr Blair’s conference speech, which, the prime minister has warned, is vital for ensuring Labour are re-elected.

Labour’s National Executive Committee also met today to finalise details of the conference.

They are likely to discuss funding problems and the future of Clare Short in the party. The former minister could be expelled from the party after she last week said she was “ashamed” of the government and that she would campaign for a hung parliament.