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Healing the nation?

A new political era has dawned with the advent of a Tory/LibDem coalition government following the hung parliament produced by the recent General Election.

John Benton

In its May issue, Prospect magazine published a set of fascinating statistics comparing Britain in 1997 when New Labour came to power with how things stand now. The population has increased from 58 to 61 million. The number of foreign-born people granted permanent right of residence in the UK in those years was 1.6 million. The public debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product has increased from 42.5% to 62%. The gap between rich and poor has grown. In 1998 the poorest 1% of people in Britain earned 18.1 times less than the richest 1%. By 2008, that figure had increased by almost a third to 26.6. House prices have rocketed. In 1997, on average a house cost 3.7 times the median annual wage; now it costs 6.5 times as much. But the enormous increase in government spending on health from £44.5b to £110.5b over this period has doubled the number of nurses in the NHS and drastically reduced waiting times for operations.