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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 10:33 GMT
Union launches anti-Blair campaign
Tony Blair at Labour's annual conference in Brighton
Tony Blair promised reform of public services
One of Britain's biggest unions has mounted an advertising campaign venting its anger over Tony Blair's talk of public service "wreckers".

Downing Street made no attempt on Monday to pull back from the confrontation with the trade unions begun by Mr Blair's public services speech on Sunday.
GMB advert
The GMB's response to wreckers attack

Mr Blair's official spokesman told reporters the prime minister remains critical of those who oppose investment and reform in the public services.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is now urging Mr Blair to stop playing the "blame game" over public services and take responsibility for changing the system.

The row continues on Tuesday, when the GMB union published newspaper advertisements depicting a nurse holding a new baby.

The advert asks: "Is she one of the wreckers, Mr Blair?"


It seems stupid to go down the road of the blame game when in reality it's the government's record that is in question

Iain Duncan Smith

GMB general secretary John Edmonds has argued government plans for a larger private sector role in public services could be Labour's "poll tax".

Union leaders believe the wreckers tag was aimed at them, as well as the Conservatives, and Downing Street has not dispelled that view.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said it was up to union leaders to speak for themselves but he urged people to take Mr Blair's speech as it was given and not how it had been subsequently "caricatured".

'Lurching'

Mr Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme on Monday he was saddened by Mr Blair's speech, which had not helped the public services debate at all.

"He's been in power five years, it seems stupid to go down the road of the blame game when in reality it's the government's record that is in question," said Mr Duncan Smith.

The Tory leader accused Mr Blair of "lurching" from one stance to another, first talking of the "scars on his back" from public servants, then calling them heroes and now saying they were "villains".

Nurses
Mr Blair acknowledged people like nurses were key to reforms
Mr Duncan Smith also countered the prime minister's suggestion that the Conservatives were "wreckers" trying to denigrate public services so they could cut public spending.

"It's stupid, it's puerile and I hope nobody buys into it," he added.

That defence did not prevent Work and Pensions Secretary Alistair Darling from arguing the Conservatives' prescription for public services was for people to pay for things like operations in the NHS.

"We are embarked on a course of sustained investment and sustained reform," said Mr Darling.

"The point the prime minister is making is that we have to maintain that and in the case of the Conservatives we have to be very, very clear here."

'Juvenile' words

Much of the weekend's argument, however, was focused inside the Labour movement as trade union leaders mounted a counter-offensive.

On Sunday, TUC general secretary John Monks contrasted the current tone with Mr Blair's warm words about public sector workers a week ago.

"This week's theme is a 'wrecking' innuendo," he told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour.

TUC general secretary John Monks
Mr Monks is angered by the "wrecking innuendo"
"It is not worthy of the government to indulge in such juvenile terminology about a subject that is very serious."

But Home Secretary David Blunkett insisted Mr Blair'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 on Monday.

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"
TGWU's Bill Morris
"There are plenty of wreckers out there"
See also:

04 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Union fury at Blair warning
04 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Wreckers speech 'could signal tax rises'
03 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair speech: Key quotes
03 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair takes on public service 'wreckers'
02 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Ringside view of union fightback
01 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Don't blame it all on us - Blunkett
01 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Labour's task in Cardiff
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