THE question and answer session with Prime Minister Blair at the GMB conference yesterday just illustrated the unbridgeable gulf between him and the working class, a gulf that was evident to both sides.
Rowena Howard of South-Western Region asked: ‘Why do you undermine local democracy – selling off schools, selling our future, insisting that council housing should be sold off, that care homes are privatised, where profit comes before care?’
A Northern Region delegate asked why shipbuilding ‘has not received an order from the Ministry of Defence for years’.
Blair replied lamely: ‘We don’t seem to agree on local democracy.’
He defended council house privatisation and went on to claim ‘Trusts’ and Academies’ assets revert to the local authority’ at the end of their contracts.
On shipbuilding jobs he said ‘it is difficult because there is not a lot of work and there is a lot of competition’.
A Southern Region delegate told Blair that hospitals had made great advances in care. He added: ‘We work hard to get targets met but payment by results, patient choice and independent treatment centres are putting all that at risk. We need to talk about this.’
London Region asked: ‘Do you think a Gordon Brown premiership will be any better than your own and when are you going to say when you are going?’
Blair replied: ‘Enough has been said about that last question’ refusing to even attempt an answer.
Blair continued: ‘On the NHS, patient choice isn’t putting all that at risk as you say’.
A delegate from Lancashire region asked: ‘Why did you go to war on a lie? You told us Iraq had WMDs. It didn’t. You told us al-Qaeda were in Iraq – they weren’t, but they are now. When are you going to get our troops home?’
A Dorset delegate asked: ‘Is it fair for MPs to retire on full pensions when the people who elected them are being told to work longer for less pension?’
Blair claimed: ‘The pension rules apply to everyone.’
‘On Iraq,’ he added, ‘You say we should bring our troops home now. What is happening today is different from what happened under Saddam.’