Wednesday, 24 March 2010

13 Labour achievements

I think the party has managed to achieve a number of positive things throughout their time as the governing party. So here's 13 achievements for 13 years of a Labour government.

1. The Minimum Wage

There were concerns at the time that this could result in unemployment and job losses on a grand scale, but these fears don't seem to have come to fruition. Any adult who works knows they're guaranteed a reasonable wage for their work. That's not to say there's not room for improvement; for some people living on benefits, there's no incentive to work, as the wage they would earn from doing so would be less than they'd gain by living off handouts - talk about counter-productive!

2. Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA)

I have a particularly vested interest in this one. This is perhaps one of the few policies followed by New Labour that could really be described as socialistic. Students who continue to study after leaving full-time compulsory education (after completing year 11) whose family earns under a certain rate are entitled to either £10, 20 or 30 a week, and a £100 bonus twice a year if we're achieving targets - though that's being scrapped soon. The EMA payment goes directly into the bank accounts of students, hopefully to be saved there, or used for school supplies or travel (or booze/partying for less savoury types. Us children of relatively low-paid  workers - I'm the son of a mechanic and a part-time cleaner - are grateful for our pocket money from the government.

3. Increased investment in public services

One would question the benefit of all this increased spending as we're now facing a bucketload of cut-backs, but public services have improved under Labour, after being largely neglected by Thatcher.

4. The fox hunting ban

As a vegetarian and firm believer in animal rights, the fox hunting ban showed that society was ready to finally officially condemn the barbaric practises of fox hunting with dogs, hare coursing, and stag hunting. About 75% of the population agree with me that hunting has no place in modern Britain. The legislation has clearly not been enforced enough - but the ban has helped to show the mixture of toffs and bumpkins that we don't agree with what they're doing, and make it clear that they could face punishment for continuing to take out their primitive bloodthirsty desires on animals.

5. NHS waiting times down

"The NHS has achieved the shortest waiting times since its records began, the Department of Health said today." Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? You'd expect the Department for Health to say that, but independent stats also seem to agree that waiting times have dropped dramatically since Labour set about improving services.

6. The smoking ban

I don't really care if pubs close because of this - sorry and all that. Passive smoking is not only a massive health risk to those who prefer air to chemicals, but it's also incredibly annoying. I remember the days of going out for meals and if anyone lit up in the same room - whether they were near or not - the smell and floating grey in the air was annoying and unappetising. The smoking ban in public places in undoubtedly one of the greatest modern decisions for improving the health of the nation.

7. Banning fur farms

Another animal one, I'm afraid, but for those of us that have seen the state undercover images and videos of animals in fur farms, banning this practice in the UK can only be a good thing and a step forward for animal welfare.

8. Devolution

I'm not particularly a fan of devolution, particularly since Scottish MPs can still vote on legislation which only affects England. However, I'm sure most  Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish are all grateful to have a degree of autonomy in their affairs.

9. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

There's still a way to go, but the workings of our political system has become far more transparent since the FOIA was passed in 2000, and came into effect in 2002. We only need to look to the expenses scandal for an example of how useful it can be in helping us holding the political system to account; thanks to the tireless efforts of Heather Brooke and her use of the FOIA. Without the Act, we'd probably never know about the porn-watching, duck house owning, wisteria cutting MPs we've been blessed with.

10. Free admission to museums and art galleries

Many large museums and art galleries became free to the public due to government funding. This is a great boost to those of us who like to pretend we're intellectual and cultured, but are also too tight to pay for admission. Don't bother visiting the Tate Modern, though - full of pretentious crap and pretentious people.

11. House of Lords reform

After eons of being a room full of those posh men who could be bothered to ask Parker to drive them out of their mansion and down to Parliament, the House of Lords was modernised, with most of those who inherited their title from Daddy being ousted, and all but 92 of the seats being filled by Peers who are internally appointed.

12. Civil Partnerships

Giving the chance for gay and lesbian couples to have their relationships officially recognised without upsetting the god botherers by avoiding calling it a 'marriage'. The infamous Section 28 was also repealed, removing the somewhat odd requirement of local authorities to not promote homosexuality.

13. Creation of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs)

Whilst not as powerful as Police Officers, these chaps and chapesses have proven to be very useful in getting out there and helping people in communities with their more minor issues. My family has had experience with a very helpful PCSO over an issue we were having in our area. He is taking action and gave us advice to combat this issue. It is difficult to imagine a Police Officer would have the time or willingness to help people with what would be considered to be a minor issue, so the use of PCSOs has helped to combat more minor crime and give people someone to contact for assistance.

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