This evening I was listening via BBC iPlayer to a Radio 4 show, “The History Plays 5: A History of Blair in Nine-and-a-Half Voices”. It’s the day after Tony Blair resigns as prime minister, and he’s in the bowels of the BBC waiting to be interviewed for a daytime TV show. He’s chatting to an impressionist, Sue (who thinks he’s a Tony Blair impersonator), and in the course of their conversation he tells her a joke he used to tell at Labour Party conferences – a variation on the “What have the Romans ever done for us?” skit:
TONY: What has the Labour Party done for us? Well, apart from putting a million people back to work, the Northern Ireland peace process, House of Lords reform; and apart from the creation of Scottish and Welsh assemblies, a booming economy, cancellation of African debt, reduction of hospital waiting times, increase in welfare spending, the Olympics…
SUE: …the Olympics, the Dome, the flogging off of state assets, dismantling of the NHS, massive increase in personal debt, and an unregulated the financial sector!
It’s quite funny; but then I noticed, Blair boasts of his “increase in welfare spending” as if it was a good thing. And it was a good thing, lifting families out of poverty (reducing child poverty in Britain was a key Labour policy, and a very popular one too), and, through the introduction of the minimum wage and tax credits, helping even low paid workers survive.
But now, the Tory-led Coalition government has turned this all around. According to the government, high welfare spending is bad – who cares if children live in poverty? Tax credits are for scroungers, and the minimum wage is a foul European import that must be scrapped as soon as possible! Nowadays helping the poor is not a priority: the government cut tax for the wealthy, and instead pile hardship on those who are already on the breadline.
The play actually made me feel nostalgic about the Blair years!! And that is, of course, certifiably insane! Well done, Cameron and Clegg, you’ve driven me crazy at last.