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Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 15:18 GMT
Tories keep NHS pressure on Blair

The Tories hope to keep the heat on Tony Blair over health

The Conservative Party has revived a political soundbite from more than 20 years ago to keep the heat on the government over health on the eve of Tony Blair's 1,000th day in office.

Tory leader William Hague launched a poster on Tuesday featuring a long, snaking line of people waiting in a queue, in a clear echo of the "Labour isn't working" ad which was credited with helping Margaret Thatcher to power in 1979.

But while the Saatchi & Saatchi-designed Thatcher-era poster targeted unemployment as a key Labour weakness, the queue in Tuesday's advert is waiting for treatment on the National Health Service.

Under the slogan "Britain's still waiting...", the poster claims: "264 more people have joined the queue for the NHS every day... for a 1000 days".

Conservative leader William Hague
The advertising hoarding was unveiled after a fortnight in which the government's record on health came under heavy attack from all sides, including Labour peer Lord Winston.

'Early pledges' unmet

The Tories are hoping to reap further political reward with their accusations that after almost three years in government, Labour has yet to deliver on its election promises on key policy areas like health.

In its 1997 manifesto, Labour made an "early pledge" to cut NHS waiting lists by treating an extra 100,000 patients, but the lists rose by almost 300,000 over the following months.

They fell during the course of 1999, and the most recent statistics showed that last November there were 1,071,400 people waiting for operations in England, 87,000 fewer than the figure inherited from the last Tory government.

Queues are believed to have grown since then, due to the flu crisis.

Tuesday's poster promised: "The Conservatives have common sense solutions on health".

As part of their "Common-Sense Revolution" strategy, the Tories have offered a Patient's Guarantee, which would involve measuring waiting times, rather than waiting lists, as the key indicator of success in the NHS.

They have also called for tax breaks on private health insurance and for patients who cannot be treated by the NHS within a waiting time set by their doctor to get private treatment, paid for by the tax-payer.

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See also:
24 Jan 00 |  Health
Winston calls for NHS spending pledge
16 Jan 00 |  Health
Blair admits NHS is underfunded

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