Long angry political post warning.
I can understand members of the perpetually disgruntled section of the public saying that New Labour did nothing of value. I can understand people who are not interested, engaged or informed about politics blandly dismissing everything that was achieved in the period 1997-2010. There are people in Britain who can be disappointed with anything and everything, at all times and in all places, regardless of the facts and regardless of their own lived experience. I’m not addressing this post to those people. I am addressing this post to those on the left and those in the Labour Party who speak of New Labour as a complete waste of time, as wholly evil, or as fundamentally misinformed.
For the millionth time, here are a few of the achievements of New Labour.
On the economy:
The minimum wage
The proportion of people in relative poverty falling every year. A fall from 27% of the population to 17%.
The tax credits system
Redistributive changes to the tax and benefits system that reduced incomes at the top by 5.5% and increased them at the bottom by 12.4% (http://www.ifs.org.uk/budgets/gb2008/08chap14.pdf)
The longest period of uninterrupted growth in 200 years
On the constitution:
The Freedom of Information Act
The Human Rights Act
Bank of England independence
The first openly gay cabinet ministers in Britain
Devolution in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London
NHS funding doubled from 1997 to 2010
In 1997 there were 1 million people waiting for hospital treatment, when Labour left office in 2010 that number was 580 thousand.
Median waiting times fell from 15 weeks in 1997 to 4 weeks for outpatients and just over 2 weeks for inpatients in 2010.
New Labour set up NICE and brought evidence-based approaches to policy to the fore in the NHS
Significant falls in mortality from cancer and circulatory disease. Suicides at an all-time low.
Improved life expectancy for all social groups
Crime fell more in the period 1998-2008 than at any time in the 20th century
School spending increased massively – from 4.5 to 6.2 per cent of GDP
48,000 more full-time teachers in 2010 than in 1997
76% of pupils achieving five good GCSE grades (A* – C) compared with 45% in 1997
On international relations:
Historic peace in Northern Ireland
Peace in Kosovo
Kicking the Taliban out of Afghanistan and restoring the country to the Afghan people
New Labour didn’t get everything right. But neither their actions, nor their beliefs, nor their record are wholly awful. If you think that this record is so bad then what would you prefer? Another Conservative government? Because if we can’t make a case for Labour values and Labour achievements then a Conservative government is exactly what we will get.