New Labour has been a trillion-pound folly
Ten years and a trillion pounds later, we have little to show for Labour profligacy, says David Craig
If you had left Britain just after the 1997 election and returned in Autumn 2007 to hear Gordon Brown's first speech as party leader to a Labour conference, you would have been struck by a worrying familiarity in what was being said.
In 1997 Tony Blair pledged he would be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime". A decade later Prime Minister Brown promised to "punish crime and prevent it by dealing with the root causes". In 1997 Blair told us "we will tackle the unacceptable level of anti-social behaviour on our streets". Ten years later Brown insisted he would "take action against anti-social behaviour". In 1997 Blair promised us "a Government that seeks to restore trust in politics in this country". Ten years on Brown vowed to give us "a new kind of politics... in order to rebuild trust in the British people in our democracy". And so on.
But there is one important difference between 1997 and 2007: during the last decade, this Government has increased public spending by over a trillion pounds of our money (about £1,229,100,000,000), in an attempt to implement its 1997 promises to transform our hospitals, schools, police, pensions and social services.
Yet what have we got for the extra trillion or so of our money that the Government has spent on our behalf? The best public services in the world? Or a massive squandering of our money on misjudged policies and increasing bureaucracy?
In the NHS, as the number of managers has gone up, the number of hospital beds has decreased. In 1997 there were around 12 hospital beds per manager - now there are less than five. Yet the NHS spends about £600m a year (£15,000 per manager) on management consultants to tell these managers how to do their jobs. Meanwhile, over 34,000 people a year die unnecessarily in our NHS hospitals and another 25,000 are unnecessarily permanently disabled.
Billions more spent on the police have given us about 10 per cent more police officers and a 50 per cent increase in the number of administrators. Meanwhile violent crime has more than doubled under this Government from about 500,000 crimes in 1997 to 1,100,000 in 2007. We have more young people who are both unemployed and not looking for a job than anywhere else in Europe. More people are on benefits than ever before.
And our private pensions savings have collapsed so spectacularly that 23 million private-sector workers pay about £17bn into their pension savings each year while paying over £20bn for the pensions of just a few million retired public-sector workers. Indeed, out of those 23 million private sector workers, less than half are saving for any pensions - which means that about 13 million of those working in the private sector today will have to live on less than £5,000 a year while those in the public sector have assured pension deals.
When we first elected this Government, we were prepared to pay more tax in return for improved public services. We got the increased taxes - it's far from obvious that there has been the slightest improvement in any of our public services.
David Craig is the author of Squandered: How Gordon Brown is wasting over one trillion pounds of our money (Constable). ·
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