Blair launches offensive

Biggest ever public consultations in the United Kingdom As the Tories edge ahead in some opinion polls, goaded no doubt by doubts as to the government's foreign policy, Tony Blair launches New Labour on an offensive to bring the government closer to the people and to address the issues which preoccupy the people of Britain.

Immediately after the Queen's speech outlined the main areas of legislation to be debated during this parliament, Tony Blair prepares the next general election, which will be in 2006, at the latest but following the tradition of four-year parliaments, the government will be looking for a best-option window some time in spring 2005.

Tony Blair's message to the nation is that his New Labour government has already achieved important milestones in creating a society which is socially just, culturally diversified and more tolerant but that there is a lot more to do.

For this reason, the public consultations initiative has been launched, in which the public in general is asked to communicate to the policy centre expressing their concerns. These concerns are the old money-spenders - health, education, transportation and policing.

In the Health Sector, New Labour is continuing its policy of setting up Foundation Hospitals, which are accountable for their own budgets and which offer services on a local level, providing for the special needs of their local health authority. New Labour is committed to giving more decision-making powers to the frontline workers in the National Health Service, giving the nurses and doctors more of a say, reversing the trend previously established of allowing managers to run the hospitals from comfortable offices.

The Higher Education Bill will facilitate the passage of children from poorer backgrounds into higher education, making the education system more egalitarian, while at the same time it will improve the quality of teaching, making British Universities more competitive.

Money is being put into the rail network, under-funded for years in Margaret Thatcher's monetarist and penny-pinching governments and safety standards are being raised. The problem in many cases is that the existing structure is so old that it is costly to maintain and the infrastructure is no longer stable.

Regarding crime, there will be stiffer penalties for repeat offenders and sex offenders and the local authorities will be given more powers to address the problem of anti-social behaviour.

Broadly speaking, in this last parliament before the general election campaign swings into force in one year's time, the onus is on creating social justice, giving to the less well-off the same opportunities enjoyed by the wealthy, creating public services which are closer to the community and more inter-active with the public and their needs.

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey