How to appear to be a breath of fresh air after the bad old days of Tony Blair – while maintaining the hated man’s policies? That’s the central conundrum of Gordon Brown’s premiership.
A variety of policy statements have wrong-footed commentators and union leaders alike.
On health, Brown’s health minister admitted that his predecessor had got it all wrong, and upset health workers unnecessarily. Yet this week the new minister could not offer any hard cash to improve the derisory pay offer made to health workers, and the slashing of NHS jobs continues unabated.
On housing, Brown put it about that the new green paper would contain a long awaited commitment to council house building – a clear break with Blairism. Yet when the paper came, little of this commitment appeared, and instead we got a charter for property developers.
But it is on the war where two-faced Brown will be most easily exposed. As their man stood shoulder to shoulder with George Bush, this week Brown’s spin doctors asked us to look at the new prime minister’s body language as evidence of a changed policy.
But in his speech Brown repeated Blair’s line – the troops will stay in Iraq for just as long as George wants them.
Railroaded by the car
What can you get for £35,000? How about a metre of motorway? This is a good deal, according to ministers who are planning to spend an estimated £2.9 billion on widening the M6 motorway.
At the same time the government announced that they would cut rail subsidies by £1.5 billion a year by 2014.
As a result rail fares are expected to rise by 37 percent – making car travel a more economic option for many, but having a terrible effect on the environment.
Under New Labour Britain has become one of the most car dependent countries in the world, with car traffic increasing by nearly 12 percent since 1996.
The wettest July on record ought to be a wake up call for those in Britain who doubt the dangers associated with climate change. But it’s not for the government, which is busy sticking its head in the sand.
Scared of sharks?
Dangerous sharks are circling. Private equity companies make billions by attacking wages and using tax loopholes created by Gordon Brown to ensure they hardly pay any tax.
Pressure from the unions led Brown to launch a select committee to investigate the industry.
Private equity boss Jon Moulton, told the committee that the tax rules “allow people who have lived here for 50 years in some cases, still to claim they are not liable to pay UK capital gains tax”.
The committee investigated why even those private bosses who do pay tax, do so at a rate of merely 10 percent.
The toothless 57 page report by the Labour-led committee couldn’t bring itself to suggest any changes or sanctions.
Perhaps they were too scared of private equity sharks that Brown has brought into government.