By: Oliver Kendall, Student Voices writer
Nineteen years ago today, Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister, with a landslide triple figure majority. Throughout the thirteen years that Labour was in government, huge progress and change was bought about in our country. Here are some of the things that the Labour government did.
Firstly, they rescued our economy. It introduced the National Minimum Wage and raised it to £5.52 per hour. This was a huge step towards achieving the ‘Living Wage’ (despite it not being a real living wage) that we have today. It had the longest period of sustained growth since the 60s. It saw mortgage rates at some of the lowest levels for decades.
Secondly, it did amazing things to cut crime. For example, there were over 14,000 more police officers in England and Wales, something that was a key component to cutting overall crime by a third.
Thirdly, on education, they gave our kids (including myself) the best start in life that was possible. There were record levels of literacy and numeracy in our schools. Young people were achieving some of the best ever results at ages 14, 16 and 18. Funding for every pupil in England was doubled. They oversaw record numbers of Students in Higher Education. There was also a huge increase in the number of teachers and support staff in our schools (over 300,000). In addition, the last Labour government championed the Sure Start program, delivering over 2000 children’s centres.
The last Labour government took action to save our NHS from the previous Tory government. Waiting lists were slashed from 18 months to 18 weeks, 85,000 new nurses were on our hospital wards, there was over 32,000 new doctors and they bought back matrons. Furthermore, NHS direct began offering patients free advice. All over 60s were given free eye tests. Finally, they gave all women aged 50-70 free breast cancer screening.
Wales and Scotland’s national assembly/parliament was given more powers.
Fathers were given paternity leave of two weeks, the Equality and Human Rights Commission was introduced, Winter Fuel Payments to pensioners was £200 and for those over 80, it was £300. We were on course to exceed our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. City-wide government was restored to London, devolved government was restored to Northern Ireland, all full time workers were entitled to 24 days of paid holiday, a million pensioners and 600,000 children were lifted out of poverty. We had the cleanest rivers, beaches, air and drinking water since the industrial revolution.
Every three and four-year-old was given a free nursery place, most four to six-year-old had free fruit at school. The government cut long-term youth unemployment by 75%.
The government scrapped section 28 and introduced Civil Partnerships (a huge paving stone towards equal marriage).
These are only a few of the amazing things that the Labour government did. It did so many fabulous things that changed the country for the better. It did make mistakes (as do all governments) such as the Iraq war, which was a rush to war without a clear plan. It was done as it was thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (which wasn’t true).
The last Labour Government was a truly modernising and revolutionary government. Just one final thought: the only reason Labour was electable was because we applied our social values to the world as it was then, not how we wished it was. If Labour is ever going to win again, we must do the same. That doesn’t mean going back to the policies we won with in 1997, 2001 or 2005 – it means applying our traditional Labour values to the world as it is today. As Liz Kendall said “I’m not Blairite, Brownite, Old Labour, New Labour. I want to be today’s and tomorrow’s Labour.” That is the vision we need, we can’t go back to the policies of the 1980s where we were locked out of power for a generation, instead, we have to look to the policies for today.
In defence of the last Labour government Reviewed by Student Voices on 01:01 Rating: