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EDITIONS
Monday, 4 February, 2002, 13:48 GMT
Union fury at Blair warning
Tony Blair at Labour's annual conference in Brighton
Tony Blair promised reform of public services
The leader of the TUC has accused Tony Blair of not taking public services seriously enough, calling the prime minister's comments about wreckers "juvenile".

TUC general secretary John Monks reacted in anger to Mr Blair's assertion that the modernisation of public services was a battle between "reformers and wreckers".


It is not worthy of the government to indulge in such juvenile terminology about a subject that is very serious

TUC general secretary John Monks

But Home Secretary David Blunkett insisted that the prime minister's remarks were not aimed at the vast majority of union members who had been "making a magnificent contribution over the past five years to the success of this government".

"It may well be aimed at those who, whatever you do, are against it," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

A Downing Street spokesman said that the prime minister's speech should be taken how it was given and not how it has been subsequently "caricatured".

Mr Blair joined other ministers in using terms such as "wreckers" to describe the struggle over reforming public services, in his speech at Labour's spring conference in Cardiff on Sunday.

But Mr Monks told the BBC that it was "absolutely destructive" to suggest that people in public services could be described in this way.

'Bizarre'

Speaking on Radio 4's Westminster Hour, he said that a week ago public sector workers had been warmly praised by the prime minister.

TUC general secretary John Monks
Mr Monks is angered by the "wrecking innuendo"
But he said: "This week's theme is a 'wrecking' innuendo.

"It is not worthy of the government to indulge in such juvenile terminology about a subject that is very serious."

Meanwhile Bill Morris of the TGWU told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There are plenty of wreckers around but they are not to be found in the trade union movement.

"The wreckers I think are the people who have brought Railtrack to where it is, I think also the Enron activities within government, right at the heart of government, and of course those who thought that September 11 was a good day to bury bad news."

That was a reference to Transport Secretary Stephen Byers' spin doctor Jo Moore who won notoriety after a leaked memo showed she had encouraged colleagues to hide negative news stories in the wake of the US terror attacks.

Mr Morris added: "Unless the Prime Minister reins in these people, then they will ultimately wreck his government."

In his speech, Mr Blair stopped short of calling union bosses "wreckers" but a reference to "small c conservatives" was taken to be a swipe at resistance to his policies by people on the left of Labour.

He also argued that the Conservatives wanted to run down public services to win the argument for lower public spending.

'System failing'

But Tory home affairs spokesman Oliver Letwin said: "I don't think there is much mileage to be got by anybody talking about wreckers."

Public services had "severe deficiencies" as a result of problems in existing structures.

Constructive and radical ideas were now needed to find ways of improving services - and that, Mr Letwin said, was what the Conservatives were engaged in.

"What's important is that we don't leap to conclusions and don't turn this into party political bickering or attacks on the trade unions or on specific people working in the system."
Nurses
Mr Blair acknowledged people like nurses were key to reforms
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: "If Labour had been honest about the actual cost of getting us proper health care, we would have been told at the last election that taxes will have to go up to pay for it."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Tony Blair always promised radical things for his second term"
Home Secretary David Blunkett
"If we are going to move forward we need to remember those early 80s"
Conservative Party leader, Iain Duncan Smith
"The system needs major reform and change"
TGWU's Bill Morris
"There are plenty of wreckers out there"

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See also:

03 Feb 02 | UK Politics
03 Feb 02 | UK Politics
02 Feb 02 | UK Politics
01 Feb 02 | UK Politics
01 Feb 02 | UK Politics
06 Sep 01 | ppp
09 Sep 01 | UK Politics
03 Feb 02 | UK Politics
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