We cannot afford a government that sneers at public services

December 30, 2009 1:52 pm

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Osborne CameronBy Tom Harris MP / @TomHarrisMP

There’s a lie that the Tories love to repeat over and over again. The aim, presumably, is to repeat it often enough so that the general populace start to believe it.

Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, was at it again today, telling the BBC News Channel that the government, in the last 12 years, “has spent money like there’s no tomorrow to very little effect.”

We didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining, according to Dave’s Big Book of Rubbish Soundbites.

No, we didn’t fix the roof – we bought a brand new one, much better than the old one.

Let’s be clear about what the Tories mean when they sneer about the money Labour has spent: the new schools and hospitals, the cuts in NHS waiting lists, the improvements in exam performance, the record high number of young people going on to further and higher education.

These are all wonderful and significant achievements. And they mean a great deal to the families who have benefited from all that investment – the children who would otherwise have attended schools in dilapidated, drafty Victorian school buildings, the concerned relatives of patients who, under the Tories, would have continued to be treated in an under-resourced NHS, the communities who, without Labour, would have had to rely on a police force deliberately prevented from recruiting to full strength.

And all of this cost money. Lots of it.

The Tories would prefer not to have spent it. The new schools, the new hospitals, the new nurses, the new doctors, the new police officers, the new teachers, the new classroom assistants, the new SureStart centres. Every single one of these achievements is regarded by the Conservative Party as of “no avail”.

Just think about that.

To be fair, the Tories have been consistent about this sort of thing. They have made no secret about their preference for tax cuts over public services. They have nothing but contempt for any government that “squanders” public money on wasteful enterprises such as the winter heating allowance, pension credits and tax credits to encourage people off benefits and into work.

As for the NHS, consider this: every single Tory MP elected at the 2005 general election won his or her seat on a manifesto commitment to transfer billions of pounds of NHS funding directly into the private health service. Yet those same Tory MPs who campaigned for such a horrific idea now claim they have changed their minds about the wisdom of the so-called “Patient’s Passport”. All of them. They all changed their minds.

Do you believe them?

This is the same party who lionizes one Daniel Hannan MEP, a man who holds the NHS itself in contempt, who described it as “a 60-year mistake“. Yeah, the usual suspects in the Shadow Cabinet were ordered to walk outside to tell the press that Hannan did not represent the views of his party. But we all know that Hannan’s words far more accurately reflected the views of the majority of Tory MPs and of the overwhelming majority of Tory Party members.

That’s the choice Britain will face in 2010: between a Labour Party which has done everything in its power both to save and grow our public services and to protect ordinary families from the ravages of an unprecedented world recession; and a Tory Party, unchanged in its political culture from its 1980s incarnation, which despises investment in public services – and despises some of those public services themselves – and has opposed every single measure proposed by the government to mitigate the effects of the recession.

Labour will have an uphill struggle to make the case for its re-election in 2010. Four consecutive victories don’t come along very often. But the alternative to a re-elected Labour government is bleak indeed.

Britain cannot afford to have sitting round the Cabinet table men and women who regard new and improved schools and hospitals as nothing more than expensive and disposable luxuries.

This post was also published on Tom’s Blog.




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