Socialist Worker

New Labour has betrayed us

Issue No. 1747

New Labour has betrayed us

1. He still won't tax the rich

THE RICH have nothing to fear from a Labour election victory. That was Tony Blair's main message as he launched his election campaign. He pledged not to raise the top rate of income tax, the same promise to the rich that he made in the run-up to the 1997 election. Inequality between rich and poor has already grown to record levels under four years of New Labour. Blair's tax pledge to the rich now means the gap will get even bigger after the election. Blair also claims his government is committed to boosting public services like health and education. But the record of the last four years is miserable. Even Blair was forced to tell the cabinet this week that New Labour has "not done everything people want". Incredibly, New Labour is actually spending a lower proportion of national wealth on health and education than the Tories did.

That's why not a week goes by without a crisis or a scandal hitting the NHS. And that's why teachers and parents know that schools are understaffed and do not have the resources to give our children the education they deserve. Blair's tax promise to the rich means none of that will change under a new New Labour government.


2. Growing gap

BRITAIN UNDER New Labour is more unequal than at any time for over a century. The government's own Office for National Statistics reported last month that the gap between rich and poor has grown under Blair. The New Labour supporting Guardian explained, "The income gap between rich and poor is continuing to widen under Labour and last year outstripped even the highest inequality mark under the Conservatives."

  • The poor pay proportionately more tax than the rich. That's the shocking fact after four years of New Labour. Someone in the poorest fifth of households typically pays 41.4 percent of their overall income in tax. Someone in the top fifth of households pays just 36.5 percent. The figures were revealed last month by the government's own Family Expenditure survey.
  • The number of millionaires in Britain has more than doubled in the last five years. There are now 73,990 millionaires, up from 33,063 in 1995. For the poor it's a different picture. A quarter of people in Britain now live in poverty, a report by a series of universities found last month. The study found that back in 1983 14 percent of people had low income and were unable to afford basic household necessities. That has now leapt to 26 percent.

3. Lethal cost of privatisation

THE COSTS of privatisation were underlined this week by the official report into the Hatfield rail disaster. It found that both Railtrack and contractor Balfour Beatty knew of cracks and other problems with the track, but nothing was done. The result was October's crash in which four people died when the track shattered.

Railtrack first found a problem with the Hatfield track back in 1998, according to the report. The Financial Times adds that "tests carried out by Balfour Beatty [on the Hatfield track] gave results that should have indicated a serious problem, but they appear not to have been acted on".

Yet New Labour's only answer to the crisis on the rail is to throw ever more public money at Railtrack. It has just agreed to hand another �1.5 billion subsidy to the company. And, incredibly, deputy prime minister John Prescott has made Balfour Beatty one of his "preferred bidders" to take over London's tube.


4. Made to serve

UPSTAIRS, downstairs is back under New Labour. The number of domestic servants in Britain doubled during the 1990s.


5 Public services bleeding dry

TONY BLAIR secretly scrapped an official report at the end of March that showed the awful state of Britain's public services under New Labour. The report said that Britain's schools, hospitals and other core services lacked "sufficient sustained investment", suffered from staff shortages, low pay, poor leadership and let down their users. This was too much for Blair and his inner circle. They stopped the report being published.

In key areas Labour has spent less in each of its four years in government than the Tories did in their final 12 months in office. During the last year investment in transport, schools and hospitals came to just �4.3 billion. Even the Tories spent �4.7 billion in the run-up to the 1997 election.

During the past four years spending on new capital investment in public services has averaged less than 0.5 percent of gross domestic product. Even under the Tories in the 1980s it was over 1 percent. Is it any wonder our public services have not got better?


6. Oil giants rob us

OIL COMPANY Shell made a record �2.7 billion profit in the first three months of this year, it announced last week. That is over �1 million an hour, every hour of every day. It is the latest in a series of similar super-profits announcements by the giant oil companies.

Just a 15 percent levy on these bonanza profits could raise �17 billion, enough to renovate 100 existing hospitals and build 30 new ones. That would mean no need for PFI schemes.

And simply putting the tax on North Sea oil extraction back to its 1979 level could pay for the future running costs of all these hospitals. But Blair allows the oil giants to continue polluting the planet and block any real action on climate change. He even put Lord Simon, the former boss of oil giant BP, in his government as a minister.


7. Old in poverty

OVER 55,000 pensioners died from cold in Britain last winter-the highest figure since 1976.


8. Profits pile up

BLAIR REFUSES to even tax the rich as much as Margaret Thatcher. She had a top rate of tax of 60 percent for the rich for much of her time in office. Blair won't increase the rate at all from its current 40 percent. $ 9. Reward for the wealthy

BIG BUSINESS has never had it so good as under New Labour. Chancellor Gordon Brown has slashed the corporation tax on company profits to the lowest in the industrialised world. It is now just 30 percent, and for some businesses as low as 10 percent. Back in 1983, after four years of Margaret Thatcher's Tory government, corporation tax was 52 percent. Just putting it back to that level could raise �22 billion a year that could transform health and education for the better.


10. NHS in crisis

AROUND A third of nurses in Britain are planning to resign over the next year because their workload has left them "emotionally exhausted". There is a record nursing shortage of 22,000 vacancies. Health workers report they are overworked and underpaid.

New Labour has spent an average of 5.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on health over the last four years. Even the Tory government in its last year spent 5.5 percent of GDP on health.


Quote that shows how far its gone

"LAST FRIDAY evening I met, for the first time in 20 years, a man who-when we knew each other well-was the distinguished headmaster of a north of England comprehensive school. No sooner had we shaken hands than he told me that he had voted Labour in every general election since the Second World War. I have learned from recent hard experience that, these days, protestations of previous loyalty almost all lead to announcements of imminent desertion. So he did not have to say that, thanks to Alastair Campbell's reference to 'bog-standard comprehensives', he would never vote Labour again. I felt a sudden urge to ask the heretical question. Am I still what I would once call 'a Labour man' because of sentiment, the comfort that comes from imagined familiarity, or because the Tories are so much worse?"

This isn't a left winger speaking, but Roy Hattersley, deputy leader of the Labour Party in the 1980s, who helped Neil Kinnock launch the "modernisation" process which led to the triumph of Tony Blair.

Now even he is questioning the policies of New Labour and comes across numerous once-loyal Labour voters who will never vote Labour again. Unfortunately Hattersley still advises people to remain within and vote for the Labour Party. But disillusioned Labour voters can be won to voting for the Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party in the election.


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News
Sat 12 May 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1747
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