Many people think that putting Gordon Brown into 10 Downing Street would herald a return to Old Labour policies. They might be right. In the 1960s and 1970s, Labour presided over a host of pay freezes and incomes policy initiatives. These led to a drop in living standards for workers, especially the lowest paid.
On Monday of this week Brown gave a keynote speech to the CBI employers’ organisation where he floated the possibility of a three-year pay freeze for public sector workers.
The chancellor told business leaders that he was committed to further “reform” of public services – privatisation and attacks on public sector workers in other words.
Kicking the trade unions to demonstrate pro-business credentials has always been a key New Labour characteristic. And Brown is 100 percent New Labour in this regard.
Yet somehow that does not stop trade union leaders from acting as Brown’s cheerleaders. TUC general secretary Bredan Barber took this servility to even more absurd levels when he claimed this week that unions have acheived “significant victories” over pensions.
This follows the TUC’s approval for a deal that will hike up the retirement age to 68 in exchange for a measley £3 a week rise in the state pension. Barber added that accepting this deal showed that trade union leaders were “not bonkers after all” – now that is a matter for debate.
Keep our NHS Public
Stealth privatisation is not good for our health
Tony Blair proved that the health service is not safe in his hands when he met with directors from FTSE 100 companies this week to encourage them to play a bigger role in foundation hospitals.
Foundation hospitals are independent trusts that involve the private sector and manage their own budgets. Socialist Worker has always argued that New Labour promotes these trusts in order to encourage backdoor privatisation.
Involving the private sector invariably drives up the costs of public services. A report published this week shows that foundation hospital trusts recorded a deficit of £24 million for 2005-6. Public money leaks out into the hands of private companies that provide the same services at a higher price.
The health service needs more staff and more resources. It does not need more privatisation or more interference from Blair’s business pals.
7 July report
A question of priorities
The London assembly’s report on the response by emergency services to the 7 July bombings, published this week, casts a revealing light on the priorities of successive governments.
A currency trader in the City of London will know within seconds that the long bond yield on the Tokyo finance markets has moved by a tenth of a percent. But a firefighter trying to save lives at a tube station cannot speak by radio to an ambulance worker just 100 metres away.
The need for better communications between vital services was highlighted 18 years ago after the fire at King’s Cross station. But the funding was never released. On 7 July emergency workers were reduced to sending runners to pass messages. What an indictment this is of governments that claim to care for our safety.