Right of Reply: Liz Davies
Tuesday 12 January 1999
by Tony Blair
I DO not recognise the picture that Tony Blair draws of the Labour Party. Far from being "more ideologically united than at any time", Labour is divided over basic values.
The Prime Minister boasts of a record fall in NHS waiting lists, but the recent fall has only cut lists to the level they were at when Labour took over from the Tories. Frank Dobson has honestly acknowledged that the NHS is "in crisis". That crisis cannot be remedied unless the Government improves public sector pay and rewards our nurses, teachers and public servants as they deserve.
In contrast to the Government's miserly approach to public services is its embrace of big business. From Bernie Ecclestone to Geoffrey Robinson, from the Millennium Dome to the private finance initiative in hospitals and schools, the line between public interest and private profit is being dangerously blurred.
While the big corporations are mollycoddled with tax cuts and government appointments, the poor are offered "tough love". For Labour members, the party's raison d'etre is to combat poverty and inequality. But the Government's welfare reform plans seem more about trying to reform the poor out of poverty than reforming our economic system to eliminate poverty.
Governments in France and Germany demonstrate there is an alternative. Fiscal and monetary conservatism are outdated shibboleths. The need of the hour is renewed intervention in the economy.
Finally, many party members are shocked by Britain's participation in the bombing of Iraq. The Government's policy of punishing the people of Iraq for the crimes of Saddam Hussein is illogical and cruel and has undermined our commitment to an ethical foreign policy.
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