Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Health Inequalities

Would action on health inequalities have saved New Labour?

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 23 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3294

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Gerry McCartney, specialist registrar in public health, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow,
  2. Chik Collins, senior lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley,
  3. Danny Dorling, professor of human geography, Sheffield
  1. Correspondence to: G McCartney gmccartney{at}

    Had Labour widened rather than narrowed the mortality gap, the balance of the current parliament might have been a bit different

    Inequality in health is among the factors that could have made a crucial difference in this year’s UK general election. How? We know that the gap in life expectancy between the worst and best local authorities grew in the 10 years after New Labour was elected in 1997. The effects of this inequality have not been politically neutral. In the areas that tend to elect Labour party representatives people are likely to die relatively young, and in the areas that tend to elect Conservative party representatives people tend to live longer.1 2

    Taking older voters from 1997, 2001, and 2005, we can confidently say that a higher proportion of those who voted Conservative than of Labour voters were still around to do so again in 2010. The great irony is, of course, that this growth in health inequality is now part of the legacy of the longest ever period of Labour government.3

    The quotation “Vote early—and vote often” has been attributed to Chicago politics. However, an interpretation of the saying can perhaps help cast some light on the recent UK general election result and the subsequent emergence of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

    New Labour was elected in …

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