Sunday, 1 July 2007

The Blair Effect

The year was 1997 - Tony Blair had just won a historic general election and become Prime Minister. There were crowds of people cheering as he went down Downing Street. The following are extracts from his victory speech on May 2nd of that year:
"And this new Labour government will govern in the interests of all our people — the whole of this nation. That I can promise you. When I became leader of the Labour party some three years ago I set a series of objectives. By and large I believe we have achieved them. Today we have set objectives for new Labour Government - a world class education system. Education is not the privilege of the few but the right of the many.

A new Labour Government that remembers that it was a previous Labour Government that formed and fashioned the welfare state and the National Health Service. It was our proudest creation. It shall be our job and our duty now to modernize it for a modern world, and that we will also do."
"And it will be a government that seeks to restore trust in politics in this country. That cleans it up, that decentralizes it, that gives people hope once again that politics is and always should be about the service of the public. And it shall be a government, too, that gives this country strength and confidence in leadership both at home and abroad, particularly in respect of Europe."
There were plenty of promises and 10 years of leadership should be time for those promises to be delivered. The list of achievements below is taken from the Keeping the Faith website, which is dedicated to supporting Tony Blair (or was):
  • Britain now has the lowest inflation for thirty years and the lowest mortgage rates for forty years - saving homeowners an average of £3,700 a year compared to the Tory years. We have the longest period of sustained growth for 200 years.
  • The number of people in work is at a record level, up by over 2 million since 1997.
  • Over 1.5 million working people are better off thanks to the National Minimum Wage.
  • Hospital waiting lists in England are at their lowest since 1987.
  • In the NHS there are 19,300 more doctors and over 77,500 more nurses working with modern equipment, giving faster access to more people, all free at the point of need.
  • Standards are up across the board including the best ever primary school results. More teachers are in our schools than at any point in last 20 years - 28,500 more than in 1997.
  • Police numbers are at record levels - up over 12,500 since 1997, and are assisted by over 4,000 new Community Support Officers.
Seven achievments in 10 years. Wow - that's impressive (you might note a tiny bit of sarcasm there).

Let's think about the point about employment 2 million more people in work is absolutely brilliant. Well, it is brilliant until you find out that Britain is capable of increasing it's population by 1,420,306 in four years. That 'achievement' assumes that the population is static for 10 years.

Another interesting thing is that 'full employment' is frequently mentioned in New Labour propaganda (for instance, Gordon Brown mentioned it in this speech back in 2005). Full employment is - and always has been - impossible. There's always going to be a certain amount of people who spend a few days or week 'between jobs'. This could be due to resignations, redundancies and all sorts of other things.

The point about the NHS is interesting. It mentions how many doctors and nurses that have been recruited since 1997 (a combined total of 96,800), but it doesn't mention how many doctors and nurses have left since '97. According to this article, 20000 nurses have left the NHS (not sure whether this is since '97 or later than that), in 2006 3000 nurses went to work in Australia and there'll be a nursing shortfall of 14000 by 2010. That makes the recruitment figures less than impressive as it means there could either be a smaller overall gain or even a loss.

After Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, Patricia Hewitt lost her job as Health Secretary:
"She was widely expected to lose her post after increasing pressure over NHS deficits and doctor training schemes."
That doesn't sound particularly good, does it? This article states that a study reveals that only 34% of the country believe that the Labour government had made the NHS better (this study was done by the British Medical Association, so it's a reputable source). Is that good? I don't think so. It's also interesting to note that the 2005 general election exit poll showed 37% of the vote was Labour (although this is made slightly less relevant by the fact that the turnout was 61.3%). That might account for some of the percentage at least.

Now for education. This was one of the things Blair and the New Labour regime focused on the most (at least initially). As well as the point in that achievements list, they often mention the City Academies, the 50% target for Higher Education and lifelong learning.

On the subject of Academies, this is how they're defined:
"Academies are all ability schools established by sponsors from business, faith or voluntary groups working in highly innovative partnerships with central Government and local education partners. The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) meet the capital and running cost for the Academy in full."
Tony Blair has said that parents back the scheme and Gordon Brown intends to continue with the plans under his regime, but people such as Estelle Morris (former Education Secretary and now a university Pro-Vice Chancellor) has her reservations. The academies scheme has also been criticised by the Education and Skills Select Committee and the Liberal Democrats.

The 50% target for universities is ridiculous. What about people who don't want to go down the academic route and want a more vocational style of education? What about the people who don't need that level of education for the job that they want to do? If the cap is to be taken off fees, then less people will be able to afford that level of education - which means the target will never be reached. For those who get to uni, it will mean that they'll have to take on even more part-time work, which will increase their stress levels and affect their academic performance. Sure, I think unis needed more money to improve resources for the increasing numbers, but I don't think the cap should be removed.

Lifelong learning has been a success. More and more mature students are coming to universities now to seek a higher level of education for a variety of reasons. However, if the cap were to be lifted - what would happen to them? A lot of mature students have extra responsibilities such as children and a lot of their money goes towards caring for them. How could lifting the cap make it easier for them to get into HE?

I won't cover this much more though, as I have an educational blog to go into more detail about this. I won't go into detail about the 'war on terror' either - as I have made it clear in a previous post on this blog that I strongly oppose it.

Lets not forget that Blair and Labour have done some good things during the past 10 years. They helped to secure the 2012 Olympic Games me out here!

Now we hear that Blair has become a Middle East Peace Envoy. I'm not quite sure why anyone could see him being effective in that role. Alongside George Bush, he went to war in Iraq and has stood alongside Bush in his opposition to any nuclear weapons programme in Iran (as I stated in a previous blog post, they have no proof of that programme yet).

There are plenty of other things I could comment on, such as the failing immigration system, the failed ASBO system, The New Deal or the fact the for years we have had a Deputy Prime Minister (John Prescott) who has done very little apart from go on junkets, have scandalous affairs and speak completely incoherently, but I won't as I'd be here forever.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Government, War, Healthcare, Education, Democracy, Tony Blair


Thief of Time said...

I understand your point of view David, though I don't see why you asked me to read something which looks like the front page of the independent. It's easy to criticise the government, it's less easy to point to where they went wrong and say 'you should have done this'. The Labour government has been a history of success, and the almost universal praise from the broadsheet newspapers shows that despite mistakes the govt and Tony Blair have been successful in their role as defender of our interests and our values.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Found you after I saw you had linked to me - though I couldn't see the link on your front page. Perhaps I missed it.

Anyway, I do think you're being a bit facile as regards the 7 achievements etc.

I have a list on my blog of at least 50 - and that was only up until the 2005 election.

I have never voted Labour - no honestly! - until the recent locals when I did. But now that Blair has gone I may not vote for them again. But that doesn't stop me noticing that they have led the country very successfully for the last ten years. And Blair moved the centre of gravity of our politics onto his terrain - even as he was nudging his terrain and his party markedly to the right.

He's a genius politically, imho, and streets ahead of any other UK politician at the moment, including Brown.

Interesting that your other commenter says that the broadsheets have given them "almost universal praise". Well that's interesting!

I think I must have been away that day.

Certainly I blame the press for much of Blair's unpopularity. I'm not convinced it was Iraq; or at least not only Iraq that did for him.

The press have been out to get Blair since the invasion as they could not understand his Iraq policy or believe him and so had to disparage him to make him unpopular and bring others on board their 'dump Blair' crusade. Grist to the mill for G Brown.

Criminal, imho.

The cash-for-honours nonsense was a factor which was erroneously used by the press. In the end there was no case to answer, but the damage was done.

Anyway, enough of this.

This is my blog url - if you want to use it at all.

The url stays the same though the cause is lost. Lots of content on there for a Blair student, though.