TUC's Barber savages government

11-09-2006

The government should stop self-indulging in a "leadership soap-opera" and instead concentrate on policies and improving social justice, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has told his organisation's annual conference.

Brendan Barber used his address to the TUC floor in Brighton this afternoon to criticise New Labour's "self-inflicted wounds", which he claims have unnecessarily damaged Britain's employment levels because of avoidable measures.

He attacked the government's "disturbing faith in labour markets" and its "laissez-faire approach" to Britain's manufacturing sector, which he claimed had lost one million jobs since 1997.

After having criticised prime minister Tony Blair's "autopilot foreign policy" he listed a series of problems with New Labour's public service reforms, which he said had "alienated both public servants and public alike".

The NHS was singled out for especially scathing criticism, with poor financial management, low morale caused by constant self-criticism and an irrational liking for the private sector being blamed for "all sense of progress" having been lost.

"This is not the NHS Aneurin Bevan had in mind all those years ago. This is not the NHS the public or its workforce wants. And this is not the NHS that befits a third term Labour government," Mr Barber said.

"This government is getting things wrong," he pressed, before pressing for "sustained strategies for improvement" and "proper debate".

That is the challenge the Labour government face - our Labour government," he concluded.

Mr Blair is due to address the TUC conference tomorrow, along with the man whose stormy relationship with the prime minister, chancellor Gordon Brown, has led to such criticism from Mr Barber.

In interviews and speeches over the weekend both New Labour men have echoed Mr Barber's sentiments, calling for an end to infighting and a fresh approach to the problems facing Britain.


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