The Observer on Blair
I guess I should have predicted that the Observer's special supplement on 10 years of Blair would put a completely subjective snapshot opinion poll nearer the front of the magazine than the objective audit of what Labour has achieved in power.
The poll, of course, was newsworthy. The facts - a good social democratic government getting re-elected twice for doing what it was supposed to i.e. run a strong economy, invest massively in public services and fight poverty at home and in the third world, was less so.
For the record, the audit included the following facts:
- Health: "The NHS has enjoyed the biggest increase in funds of all the public services, with spending up from £34bn in 1997 to just over £94bn this year. Staff numbers have risen, with 20,000 more consultants and GPs and about 70,000 more nurses. The number of people on waiting lists for operations has fallen by 384,000 since 1997. Output, in the form of number of people using the service, has increased by about 3 per cent a year... 118 new hospitals and 188 GP clinics have been opened or are being built."
- The Economy: "GDP is £1.118 trillion, making the UK economy the fifth largest in the world. The International Monetary Fund predicts the UK economy will grow by 2.9 per cent this year. The interest rate is 5.25 per cent. It was 6 per cent when Labour was elected. Total increase in taxation: £3,100 per household. Unemployment now at 1.7 million, down from 2m in 1997. Government debt has fallen from to 44 per cent of GDP to 36 per cent... a decade of economic stability, with consistent growth, low inflation - at least until the past 12 months - and low unemployment."
- Education: "Government spending per pupil has doubled, from £2,500 in 1997 to over £5,000. More than 36,000 teachers and 154,000 support staff added to school payrolls. ... 79 per cent of 11-year-olds meet required standards in English, up from 65 per cent; and 76 per cent in maths, up from 60 per cent. 58 per cent of GCSE candidates are getting five passes (C or better), up from 45 per cent in 1997."
- Home Office: "Crime has fallen by 35 per cent since 1997, with particularly steep falls in burglaries (55 per cent) and car crime (51 per cent)....The backlog of asylum applications is down from nearly 60,000 to 6,000."
- Foreign Affairs: "Government spending on foreign aid and development grants has doubled since 1997, increasing to 0.48 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, or around £5bn. Tony Blair also used the UK's presidency of the G8 in 2005 to push forward a plan to write off the debts of the world's poorest countries. In the past 10 years Britain has intervened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone. Defence spending has remained more or less level at about 2.5 per cent of total government spending since 1997."
- DWP: "Spending on child-related benefits increased by 53 per cent in real terms between 1999 and 2003. 700,000 children have been lifted out of poverty - with a target to eradicate child poverty by 2020."
- DTI: "The introduction of the minimum wage ensured better rights for workers.... The 'productivity' gap with the US, Germany and France narrowed. Britain attracted increasing inward investment from £153bn in 1997 to £483bn in 2006. The increased science budget and encouragement for research and development has also been welcomed by business."
- DCMS: "Spending on the arts has more than doubled since 1997 from £186m to £412m. Attendance at museums and galleries has risen by 83 per cent."