Letter: To get a Tory to vote Labour

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your perceptive comment on Tony Blair ('Bold, but Blair must also be brave', 5 October) draws attention to one disturbing shortcoming in the Blair/Brown treatment of unemployment but omitted another at least as important. You rightly point out the inadequacy of blaming all Britain's problems on the Conservatives. Such a belief leaves no room for the contribution of technological advances and the growing importance of low-wage competition from developing countries.

Labour's failure to give these factors any public recognition suggests that it severely underestimates the part they play in reducing demand for low-skill manufacturing jobs in Britain and the other G7 countries.

However, Labour gives cause for further concern when it relies on education and training as a relatively immediate solution to unemployment. This completely ignores the problem of timing. Significant and widespread improvement in workforce skill levels will take many years to achieve.

The UK faces an exceedingly uncomfortable two decades while the long-term unemployment rate of low- skilled individuals remains depressingly high. For the Labour Party to pretend that an effective solution exists is both cruel and foolish. It risks a severe increase in social disorder when hope inevitably turns to bitterness. We need greater public awareness of the nature and causes of this most serious problem in order to manage the transition to a higher-skilled economy as humanely and peacefully as possible.

As a Conservative voter committed to multi-party democracy, I suspect that many in my position would be happy to see Mr Blair in power if, but only if, he can convince us on three crucial issues by the time of the next election. Do he and his colleagues really understand our current and future economic problems? Do they have policies that address these problems? Has the greater majority of the Labour Party accepted modernisation 'head and heart'? If any of these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, Labour will still be too dangerous to elect.

Yours faithfully,

STEPHEN MULLINER

Haslemere, Surrey

6 October

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