Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friday Forum

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friday Forum

Article excerpt

Byline: By Gill Hale

Ten years ago, if someone had asked me what I wanted for Christmas I would probably have said: "A Labour Government".

Today, in moments of frustration, I might jokingly say the same.

Over six months into New Labour's historic third term and I think it's true to say that some of the rapture of those heady days of 1997 has worn off.

We in the trade union movement would never underestimate the achievements made since the Tories were thrown out ( the minimum wage; a permanent Low Pay Commission tackling poverty; better and stronger equality legislation on race, gender, age and disability and major improvements to maternity leave and pay are only some of the positive policies introduced that benefit working people and communities. Policies that would never have seen the light of day under a Tory administration ( policies that are unlikely to be part of David Cameron's thinking however hard he tries to distance himself from his party's past.

On these sort of issues we stand shoulder to shoulder with and remain friends of the Government. But sometimes we need to be critical friends. Lately the tone and direction of Government thinking have given cause for concern ( seemingly pandering to the perceived interests of middle England rather than presenting a real and clear alternative to worn out Tory dogma. Terms like "choice", "radical reform" or "empowering local communities" can be used to mean different things. Unfortunately in the Government's case they have turned out to mean policies designed to open doors for private business and increase competition rather than focus on the needs of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups in our society. It is shocking that after eight years of a New Labour government the private sector has increased its foothold in public services and by next year it is estimated that nearly a fifth of public services ( worth pounds 60 billion ( will be run by the private sector.

Two areas where creeping privatisation is of particular concern are the NHS and education. Reforms announced earlier this year proposed the break-up of primary care services, forcing thousands of primary care staff in England into the private sector. …

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