Labor Party Convention Votes for Policy Rethink
BRIGHTON, England (AP) _ Britain’s opposition Labor Party struggling to regroup after three successive election defeats, today voted overwhelmingly to launch a radical policy review.
Party leftists accused Labor Party Neil Kinnock of planning to abandon Labor’s socialist beliefs in pursuit of the yuppie and blue-collar voters who helped Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher win a third five-year term in elections June 11.
But delegates to the week-long annual party conference, the first since the June elections, nonetheless endorsed the Kinnock-backed policy review document, title ″Moving Ahead.″ It is aimed at drumming up support among the better-off.
″The truth is that unless we change ourselves, the Conservatives are likely to dominate the politics of the ’90s as they dominated the politics of the ’80s,″ Labor legislator Charles Petrie warned the 4,000 delegates.
Big trade unions, which wield huge blocks of votes at the conference, supported Kinnock to defeat leftist demands that the party organize anti- Thatcher street demonstrations and that its legislators disrupt parliamentary proceedings.
The 45-year-old Kinnock flanked by deputies and seated on a platform decorated with the Party’s red rose symbol, took no part in today’s debate.
In a British Broadcasting Corp. interview to be broadcast tonight, Kinnock indicated for the first time that Labor may ditch its pledge to scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons unilaterally. A transcript of his remarks was released early today.
Kinnock said it was inadvisable ″to absolutely screw in attitudes and say that they are utterly permanent fixtures.″
″The permanent fixture is the need to defend our country properly, the need to be effective allies and the need to meet those duties,″ he added.
″The systems of weaponry that evolves round - that is subject to change as the superpowers have currently demonstrated,″ he said.
The United States and the Soviet Union agreed in principle this month to eliminate shorter- and medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe. That would mean the withdrawal of American cruise missiles from Britain.
But the agreement will not affect U.S. F-111 nuclear bombers and nuclear submarines also based in Britain, or this country’s own long-range nuclear missiles.
Earlier, Labor deputy leader Roy Hattersley described the anti-nuclear policy as ″the major vote-loser″ and said it must be reviewed.
Hattersley, on the right of the party, has opposed the anti-nuclear policy since its adoption in 1980.
The conference opened in this south England resort against a background of sharp attacks from left-wingers on Thatcher’s government and Kinnock’s party leadership.
Linda Bellos, a militant leftist and newly elected member of Parliament, stirred a furor Sunday night by accusing the government of fascist tendencies and saying Labor was not mobilizing to fight them.
″We are seeing rising fascism. We are seeing it in this country. What we have seen from the Tories (Conservatives) has been horrendous and it is leading eventually to gas chambers,″ she said.
Chris Patten, junior Home Office minister responsible for race relations, said in a statement that it was ″wildly irresponsible″ for Ms. Bellos, who is black, to make such a comment.
Another left-wing legislator, Brian Sedgemore, launched a scathing personal attack on Kinnock and the party leadership, saying they inspired ″all the confidence of Napoleon’s army in retreat from Moscow.″
After eight years of Mrs. Thatcher’s rigorous brand of conservatism, Labor territory is now virtually confined to its depressed northern heartlands and rundown London boroughs.
″We should not shy away from arguing for our own policies in the language of individual self-interest and prosperity,″ said the policy review document adopted today.