‘Labour’s legacy was lower inequality’

Former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, outside No 10  after his landslide election victory in 1997. Picture: Getty

Former prime minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, outside No 10 after his landslide election victory in 1997. Picture: Getty

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Labour’s 13 years in power delivered major improvements in public services and reduced social inequality but failed to tackle the pay gap between the rich and the poor, according to academics.

Researchers found that despite the “myth that Labour spent a lot and achieved nothing” Tony Blair and Gordon Brown left the Coalition with a legacy of lower poverty and a widely improved public sector.

The London School of Economics and Political Science’s study found that although spending went up by 60 per cent under Labour, the pre-crash levels were “unexceptional” domestically and internationally and national debt levels were lower than when the party took office.

Access and quality in public services improved, according to the LSE’s Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (Case) report, Labour’s Social Policy Record: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010.

Most of the extra spending went on improving services, including new hospitals, schools, 48,000 extra full-time equivalent teachers, 3,500 new children’s centres, and more doctors and nurses.

These areas of policy are devolved to Scotland and the Westminster government’s policies had a direct effect south of the Border.

But the Scottish administration received extra cash as a result of Barnett formula, much of which was ploughed into schools and health.

Overall, Labour saw results in the areas it targeted with cash, including reducing rates of child and pensioner poverty, cutting hospital waiting times, improving teacher-pupil ratios and boosting neighbourhood facilities.

But there was no real change in overall levels of income inequality, wage inequalities grew at the top and poverty for working-age people without children increased.

Ruth Lupton, coordinating report author, said: “There is a myth that Labour spent a lot and achieved nothing.

“The evidence shows that outcomes improved and gaps narrowed on virtually all the socio-economic indicators that were targeted.

“Labour left the Coalition with a legacy of more equal outcomes on many measures, less poverty and expanded public services.

“However, their reliance on the labour market to improve the situation for working-age people with no children did not pay off – some outcomes for this group got worse.”

Labour had “by no means reached its goals” by 2010, however, with wide gaps in achievements between disadvantaged children and those from wealthier families, particularly at higher attainment levels.

The party also achieved “substantial returns” on its large-scale investment in the NHS in healthcare quantity, quality and satisfaction but variations in performance continued, including “well-publicised concerns about incidents involving sub-standard care, coupled with regulatory failure”.

Shadow business secretary says talk of him becoming Labour leader is ‘absurd’

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna today insisted he finds talk of him becoming Labour Party leader “absurd”.

The MP was asked if he could become Britain’s first black prime minister and about his appearances at several Labour Party constituency events.

Mr Umunna said he helps colleagues at fundraisers in marginal and target seats because without a Labour government running the country, he will not be in a position to help businesses.

Asked if he would like to lead Labour should the opportunity arise, Mr Umunna said: “I’ve been a member of Parliament for three years. I find all this chit-chat rather absurd.

“At the end of the day, I think you’ve got to keep yourself grounded, you have to remember why you go into politics and that is to change things – to change people’s lives. It’s not about the soap opera, who’s up, who’s down, who’s this or that.

Last September Mr Umunna declined to rule out a future Labour leadership bid.

The former employment lawyer insisted it would be “arrogant” to say he would be the right man for the job but raised the prospect of there being a vacancy in “two or three years”.

When asked if he hoped to reach Labour’s top job, Mr Umunna sidestepped the question, replying: “I feel so uncomfortable with these questions.

“It would be incredibly arrogant for me, or anyone else to say, in two or three years I would be the best person to lead this country. I feel deeply uncomfortable about that.”

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