Smith warning on 'privatisation madness'

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The Independent Online
THE CONSERVATIVE government had turned the clock back 80 years for millions of people, recreating the hopelessness and drudgery of Edwardian Britain, John Smith said yesterday.

The party leader told the Welsh Labour Party conference in Llandudno that after 14 years of Tory government, no one any longer believed a word they said. 'People know that the Tories have failed them, broken their promises, betrayed their commitments, and shown themselves unfit to run this country.'

John Major had broken his election promises on taxation, and appeared to be planning to make the most vulnerable suffer through prescription charges - 'tearing up his promises not to cut public expenditure', said Mr Smith.

Having steered the economy to disaster, the Prime Minister was embarked on a course of privatisation madness. 'John Major is like the runaway train rushing headlong down the track. The whole country is telling him to stop - shouting loud and clear in Newbury and in the recent county elections that enough is enough. But he still steams ahead with new plans to sell this, hive off that . . . if he refuses to listen to the British people, and if he carries on down this crazy track, privatisation will be his Waterloo.'

Mr Smith said that the next Labour government would put people back to work. 'At the very heart of our economic strategy is the belief that it should be the goal and responsibility of government to maintain a high and sustainable level of employment.'

He added: 'The most damning indictment of these past 14 years of Tory government is the return of that hopelessness and drudgery to millions of our citizens.'

To the shame of the nation, he said, the Government was trying to sell Britain as a low-skill, low-pay economy. 'This strategy is bound to fail. There will always be countries which will do the work cheaper, pay their people less, exploit them even more. That is not the way forward for Britain.'

Kate Hoey was sacked as Labour front bench spokeswoman on the Citizens' Charter shortly after she defied her own whips to vote against the Third Reading of the Maastricht treaty legislation in the Commons on Wednesday night. She disclosed on BBC Radio's Any Questions programme last night that the Labour leader had called her to inform her of her dismissal.

The Labour leader's office said yesterday that Ms Hoey was no longer a front bench spokeswoman, but it did not give any explanation for her departure.