Socialist Worker

Blair lights a new bonfire of promises

Issue No. 1890

FOUR MORE lies. Tony Blair ripped up yet more promises last week. 'Everyone within the next two years will be able once again to see an NHS dentist,' was his pledge at Labour's 1999 conference. The TV pictures of 300 people queuing to register at an NHS dentist in Scarborough last week exposed the grim reality facing millions as the pledge has evaporated.

Even in large cities it can be impossible to find an NHS dentist taking on new patients. The Department of Health has admitted that 56 percent of adults and 40 percent of children were not registered with an NHS dentist last year. In some areas the figures are much lower. In south west London 64 percent of adults are not registered with an NHS dentist.

Access to NHS dentists is just one broken government promise highlighted in recent days. Blair told Labour's 2002 conference, 'I say to the trade unions-work with us on the best way of delivering the service and we will work with you on ending the two-tier workforce.'

His government agreed a deal last year with unions which talked of ending the way workers for private contractors brought into public services could be on worse pay and conditions than existing workers. Two years on and the two-tier workforce is alive and well.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison public sector union, told the Scottish Labour conference last weekend, 'Low paid workers in health and education are being exploited and it cannot be allowed to continue.' And remember Blair's 1997 election pledge to reduce school class sizes for all five, six and seven year olds to under 30?

That too has gone out of the window. The target is 'too crude', said Tony Blair this week, saying that '32 kids' in a class may be 'better'.

Brown throws pay pledge into reverse

'WE NEED better pay and conditions for staff. This year, for the first time in nearly a decade, public sector pay will rise faster than private sector pay.' That was the prime minister speaking to Labour's 2001 conference. The reality now? 'Lower pay rises are being sought by the government,' says independent pay monitoring body Incomes Data Services.

Chancellor Gordon Brown is insisting that pay review bodies and employers hold pay rises down to just 2 percent. Brown's strict inflation target of 2 percent means employers in the public sector and in industry will be gleefully telling workers, 'A 2 percent rise is all you'll get.'

Yet this measure of inflation does not cover things like mortgage interest payments, which many fear are set to rise, hefty council tax charges or buildings insurance.

For many workers a 2 percent 'rise' is an effective pay cut. Anger over pay is already provoking many workers into action. Some 90,000 civil servants were forced to hold two days of strike action over pay last week. Some 50,000 university lecturers were out on strike for decent pay this week.

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Sat 28 Feb 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1890
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