THE Labour Party now has its third chairman in less than three years as Ian McCartney succeeds John Reid, who becomes Leader of the Commons, who Tony Blair's recognition that the loyalty and enthusiasm of the rank and file of the Party needs to be won back; he has strong constituency and succeeded Charles Clarke, who is now Education Secretary. There were other competent candidates to take on the Parliamentary job from which Robin Cook had resigned, so the choice of Mr Reid for it suggests that the Prime Minister wanted someone else as Party Chairman. That it should be Mr McCartney reveals trade union links that he will put at the Prime Minister's disposal. The Labour Party has never had a Prime Minister so out-of-touch and out-of-sympathy with its traditional roots as Mr Blair, and it will take more than the new chairman's advocacy to win back the loyalty that has been lost. Mr McCartney can be expected to press for more union-friendly policies and a closer regard for the grassroots of the party. With the local elections only three weeks away Labour has reason to be worried. The effect of the war cannot be judged but the reports from the Labour constituencies warn of a collapse of support in running the elections. The volunteers who do all the hard work are simply not turning up this time.


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