Socialist Worker

Timeline – ten years of Blair government

Issue No. 2050


1997

  • May
    New Labour elected with 179 seat majority. Chancellor Gordon Brown gives Bank of England control over interest rates. Tony Blair declares that he is against public sector monopoly.
  • July
    Brown’s first budget promises to stick to Tory spending limits, but he cuts corporation tax to 31 percent Government says it will scrap student grants and introduce tuition fees.
  • August
    Fat cats brought into government. New ministers include BP boss Lord Simon.
  • September
    Seven people die in Southall rail crash. Government refuses to renationalise rail.
  • December
    New Labour’s “welfare reform” cuts lone parent benefit. Just 47 Labour mps vote against cuts.


1998

  • January
    Liverpool dockers forced to end dispute after 28 months. The government was the biggest single shareholder in the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company.
  • March
    Brown’s second budget cuts corporation tax on company profits to 30 percent.
    John Prescott announces plan for “public-private partnership” for London underground privatisation.
  • June
    New Labour sets meagre rate for minimum wage – £3.60 an hour for workers over 21, and £3 an hour for 18 to 21 year olds.
  • July
    Labour insiders who have become lobbyists are accused of using their contacts to gain privileged access.
  • December
    Britain and the US launch air strikes on Iraq, dropping 400 cruise missiles.
    Peter Mandelson forced to resign from cabinet after it is revealed that treasury minister Geoffrey Robinson lent him £373,000 to buy a house.


1999

  • February
    Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence finds police guilty of “institutional racism”.
  • March
    Blair pushes Nato into launching air strikes on Serbia.
  • July
    Blair writes article, “Why I’ve Declared War On Welfare”, launching a systematic assault on benefits.
  • October
    Another horrific rail disaster in Paddington underlines the catastrophic state of the network. This time 33 people die. New Labour still refuses to renationalise the railways.
    Pensioners told they will receive 75p a week extra.
  • November
    Government announces big cuts in incapacity benefits. Some 52 Labour MPs vote against the plans.
  • December
    John Prescott announces the privatisation of air traffic control.


2000

  • February
    Blair announces plan to privatise all council homes in Britain.
  • April
    Labour’s policy towards asylum seekers is “giving life to racists”, says T&G union leader Bill Morris, as press and politicians whip up hysteria over refugees.
  • May
    Ken Livingstone elected as London mayor, defeating Labour’s attempt to block him.
  • June
    Blair is slow hand-clapped at the Women’s Institute.
    Suffocation of 58 Chinese refugees in the back of a lorry in Dover.
  • July
    Figures show that New Labour invests less in the NHS than the previous Tory government.
  • October
    Yet another rail disaster, as four die in Hatfield rail crash.
  • December
    The ill-fated Millennium Dome, symbol of “Cool Britannia”, closes after one year.


2001

  • January
    Peter Mandelson forced to resign from cabinet again over favours to the super-rich Hinduja brothers.
  • February
    Britain and the US launch missile strikes on Baghdad.
  • June
    Blair announces massive privatisation drive, threatening the “most fundamental reform of public services for many years”. Labour wins general election. Turnout is the lowest since 1918.
  • July
    Blair condemns “mindless thuggery” of Asian people fighting back against the Nazis in Bradford.
  • September
    After the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York Blair ignores pleas for peace to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with George Bush and prepares for an attack on Afghanistan.
    Stop the War Coalition formed.


2002

  • February
    Blair calls public sector workers “wreckers”.
  • March
    Blair promised to prioritise education but 40,000 striking London teachers didn’t believe him.
  • May
    Another rail disaster, this time at Potters Bar.
  • July
    Blair preaches the need for “partnership” between bosses and workers. A million council workers go on strike.
  • September
    Blair’s dossier on Iraq is unveiled. It includes the statement that Iraq can deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. Some 400,000 march against the war.
  • October
    Labour conference sees revolt over the war and PFI.
    Firefighters strike after government stops fire service employers making pay offer.


2003

  • January
    Rail workers in Scotland refuse to move arms train bound for Iraq.
  • February
    Over 20 million join global protests against war.
  • March
    Tens of thousands walkout across the country on the day the war on Iraq begins.
  • April
    Tenth anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. “I am saddened to say that not a lot has changed,” comments his mother, Doreen.
  • May
    Labour suspends George Galloway.
  • September
    Police use terror laws to stop protest at arms fair.
  • October
    Winston Silcott, framed after Broadwater Farm riot in 1985, is freed after 17 years in jail.
  • November
    Police racism exposed in TV documentary The Secret Policeman.
  • December
    Brown signals curbs on public sector pay.


2004

  • January
    The Hutton Report into the death of weapons inspector David Kelly exonerates Blair.
    New Labour breaks promise and introduces university top up fees.
    Respect, the Unity Coalition, is formed.
  • February
    Labour expels the RMT union.
  • April
    Fifty former senior British diplomats denounce Blair for following policies in Iraq and Israel that are “doomed to failure”.
  • June
    The Labour Party gets its lowest ever vote in the local elections.
  • July
    Gordon Brown announces he wants to axe 104,000 civil service jobs.
  • December
    David Blunkett resigns as home secretary after an email emerged showing he fast-tracked a visa application for his ex-lover’s nanny.


2005

  • May
    George Galloway elected as Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow as Labour suffers general election losses.
  • June
    Cherie Blair is accused of “cashing in” on her position when she gets £30,000 for a US speaking engagement.
  • July
    300,000 march though Edinburgh against the G8 demanding to make poverty history.
    Blair denies any connection between his “war on terror” and the 7 July London bombings.
    Jean Charles de Menezes is shot dead by police at Stockwell tube.
  • September
    Walter Wolfgang, an 82 year old anti-war activist, is thrown out of a Labour conference for shouting “nonsense” during a speech by Jack Straw on Iraq.


2006

  • February
    Culture secretary Tessa Jowell’s husband is accused of accepting a bribe from right wing Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
  • March
    Blair pushes through education bill with the help of Tory votes
    A row about “cash for peerages” forces Labour to reveal the names of 12 businessmen who secretly lent the party nearly £14 million.
    Up to one and a half million workers strike in Britain over pensions.
  • April
    Health secretary Patricia Hewitt says the NHS has enjoyed its “best ever year” despite huge job losses and mounting financial problems.
  • May
    Labour suffers heavy losses at the local elections. Labour MPs call on Blair to resign.
  • July
    Israel attacks Lebanon. Blair backs Israel and opposes calls for a ceasefire.


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