Category Archives: Privatisation
In April, Peter Hitchens eloquently described the way this country is being sold to foreign governments and companies:
“I don’t think any other nation would put up with this. Why do we? The most ridiculous is the way our trains – devastated by John Major’s mad privatisation scheme – are falling into the hands of foreign state railways. So, while the Government cannot bear to have railways run by the British state, it is happy to have them run by the German, Dutch, French or even Hong Kong state systems . . . in this country that invented the railway and once exported equipment and skills around the world.”(Right: Private profit from public loss: NIPSA 2013)
- Privatised railways’ jaws are clamped firmly to the public teat; when they fail they can just stroll away from the mess they have made.
- British Rail’s trains were faster and more comfortable. It looked after its track far better and – given the money – it would never have made the mess its successors are now making of electrifying the Great Western line, which is years behind schedule, partly abandoned and vastly over budget.
- In the 20 years to 2013, state subsidies to the rail sector roughly tripled in real terms, while fares continued to rise.
- My trains are almost always late, frequently very badly so.
- But they get more expensive all the time.
- those responsible are protected from us by call centres and unresponsive websites, which only talk to us when they want to.
Finally Hitchens adds: “Last week it emerged that SNCF is bidding to operate HS2, a pointless vanity line that should have been cancelled long ago but which the Government is too weak to abandon. So we might be hiring a foreign state railway to run a service we don’t even need, while Britain is full of sizeable towns with no railway station, which could be linked to the national system for a tiny part of the cost of HS2 . . . The idea that our rulers have any idea what they are doing, or can be trusted with our national future, is a joke. They’re just hoping the bailiffs don’t turn up before the Election. But if they do, what have we got left to sell, to pay our bills?”
Hines argues that the Treaty of Rome needs transforming into a ‘Treaty of Home’ that will allow peoples to protect what they hold dear
Rupert Read has described Colin Hines’ ‘feisty clarion call’ for a change of direction away from acquiescence in the deregulated world that spawned the financial crisis and towards protection of nature, workers, localities and sovereignty, resisting rootless international capital.
As Read says, Hines’ policy of Progressive Protectionism will surely be part of a socially and environmentally viable future: crucial thought-leadership away from the political dead-end of globalisationist fantasy.
Read’s review (text here) will be published in the Ecologist, May/June issue, see Contents https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/55993/spread/5
A reader from Bournville draws attention to an article by Jules Birch in Inside Housing, a weekly magazine for housing professionals. He focusses on a recent TV Panorama programme about the benefit cap that now leaves thousands of people with 50p a week towards their rent.
He noticed that roughly 95% of tweets with the hashtag #benefitcap (scroll down to April 7) were hostile to the people featured in the programme rather than the policy. The majority of people commenting on Twitter were seeing the undeserving individual instead: the stroppy single mother with a mobile phone and the couple with many children. He notes that exactly the same thing happened with Benefits Street, How to Get a Council House and a Dispatches documentary on the cap last month.
Part of the problem, he believes, lay with the way Panorama framed the issue. As Joe Halewood was quick to point out, the programme and its advance publicity seemed to assume that most people capped are unemployed and on Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact just 13% are.
The fact that the vast majority of people capped are either unable to work or not required to work was only raised tentatively halfway through the programme. Most of those capped are lone parents with young children who are not required to look for work, or people on Employment and Support Allowance who do not qualify for an exemption but are still not fit for work.
David Pipe explained the effects in a piece following the Dispatches documentary last month. 7,500 households across 370 local authority areas have lost their housing benefit and are now receiving just 50p a week to pay their rent. The cap leaves a nominal amount for housing benefit or Universal Credit once someone’s benefits total more than £20,000 (£23,000 in London). In effect it is imposed on top of the rest of the benefits system.
The latest budget highlighted cuts for the poorest 18-21-year-olds, who will no longer be entitled to help with their rent through Universal Credit from April 1.
For many, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are the only thing keeping them in their home and the effect over time will be rising rent arrears and evictions and allocations policies that make it less likely that people on benefits will get a tenancy in the first place. So where and how can the poorest people live? Even people in caravans are being capped, and what will the knock-on costs be in terms of homelessness and the impact on the children?
Meanwhile in Broken Britain, the May government continues the policies of its predecessors and makes decisions which seriously afflict the poorest and greatly benefit the richest: the arms traders, Big Pharma, the privatised utilities, large developers, car manufacturers, private health companies and expensive, inefficient outsourcers – Serco, G4s and Capita.
In a move mirroring the 2015 proposals for the sale of the British people’s (somewhat Green) Investment Bank (GIB) Patrick Hosking, Financial Editor, has reported in the Times that another ‘secret privatisation plan’, involving the people’s British Business Bank, has been delayed by a legal challenge.
In 2015, plans to part-privatise GIB were announced by Business Secretary Sajid Javid (more detail here). The House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee warned this could cause the bank to lose its “green identity”, But the government predictably said “the time is right” for the bank to be privatised. CityAM reported that in February MPs questioned government over the proposed sale, expressing fears that this would be an asset-stripping venture by MacQuarrie.
However the proposals may well have been abandoned – for a time. The Murdoch Times’ suggests that ministers were ‘rattled’ by the legal challenge to the separate planned privatisation of the Green Investment Bank. Its sale to Macquarie, the Australian infrastructure investor, after talks described as ‘exclusive’ in a later post by CityAM, is going to judicial review after a challenge from Sustainable Development Capital, a rival bidder.
A spoke in the privatisation wheel? This challenge has affected:
- the planned sale of a portfolio of government business loans, packaged into a ‘high-yielding listed investment vehicle’, currently owned by British Business Bank plca state-owned economic development bank established by the UK Government.
- and the ‘planned move’ by the ubiquitous Baron Smith of Kelvin (above,centre), the Green Investment Bank chairman, to chair the British Business Bank, which has been without a permanent chairman since October.
What is going on behind the scenes? Why are the British people the last to know in our ‘vibrant democracy’? BIS declined to comment last night but a source close to the discussions is reported to have said: “It’s a bit baffling why stumps were pulled at the last moment. Everyone was all signed up for it.”
Saturday 4th March
The BBC reported that Jeremy Corbyn called for the government to provide more funding for the health service in next week’s Budget. Speaking to the protesters in Parliament Square, he said: “The NHS is in crisis because of the underfunding in social care and the people not getting the care and support they need. It is not the fault of the staff. It is the fault of a government who have made a political choice.”
The protest organisers say the government’s proposed Sustainability Transformation Plans (STPs) across the NHS in England are a “smokescreen for further cuts” and the “latest instruments of privatisation”. These proposals involve the complete closure of some hospitals and the centralising of some services such as A&E and stroke care on fewer sites.
Deputy chairman of the British Medical Association council Dr David Wrigley said the march was “a cry for help for anyone who uses the NHS” which was “in such a desperate situation. We need to highlight it. As a doctor I see day to day the serious pressures in the NHS due to the funding cuts from the government”.
Saturday 4th March: at 6pm
The Independent featured Ben Bradshaw (former minister) praising Blair and blaming Corbyn’s leadership – ‘the one issue on the doorstep’
Saturday 4th March 11pm (updated 4am on 5th)
“Unlike other politicians who spend weekends with corporate lobbyists &wealthy donors, John McDonnell is out on the street 4 the #OurNHS demo”
Sunday 5th March 4am
The Sunday Express: Corbyn in crisis – and no doubt more will come
Saturday 4th March 11pm (updated 4am on 5th)
The Daily Mail usefully quotes Ken Loach explaining why these particular MPs are disgruntled: “It was their Labour Party, not Corbyn’s, that lost Scotland, lost two elections and has seen Labour’s vote shrink inexorably. Yet they retain a sense of entitlement to lead.”
Strangest of all, the Times and FT (online editions) decide not to mention the demonstration.
The Times online did not carry its usual daily onslaught on Corbyn and the Financial Times online which regularly publishes biassed articles about JC – often by Jim Pickard – has no reference, merely a bland, skimpy article by David Laws: “UK reaches socially acceptable limits of austerity . . . the NHS needs a settlement which allows for rising demand and an ageing population”.
Their carefully selected and daily shown photographs and cartoons of the Labour Party leader are not to be seen? What does this mean?
Is that news to anyone?
This site and others have been focussing on this appalling phenomenon corrupting governance for years, so much so that corruption of politicians and supporting media is no longer shocking: it is the norm.
As such, frequent news of revolving doors and rewards for failure has been under-reported on this site of late – despite many significant leads from regular readers – because these items just repeat our view of the state of the nation.
However the ever-eloquent George Monbiot is more persistent
He explains: “Dark money is the term used in the US for the undisclosed funding of organisations involved in political advocacy. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. To advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf”.
Though corporate America was horrified by some of Donald Trump’s positions, especially on trade, once he had secured the nomination, big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.
Monbiot continues: “Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network that some American corporations had already developed was perfectly positioned to shape it”.
He looks into the historical background:
“Soon after the Second World War, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who founded and fund them.
“These are the organisations now running much of the Trump administration”.
He then relates the story of MP Liam Fox
In 1997, Liam Fox founded an organisation called The Atlantic Bridge. Its patron was Margaret Thatcher. On its advisory council sat the future cabinet ministers Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague and Chris Grayling. Fox, who became a leading campaigner for Brexit, described the mission of The Atlantic Bridge as “to bring people together who have common interests”. It would defend these interests from “European integrationists who would like to pull Britain away from its relationship with the United States”. The Atlantic Bridge (link no longer informative) was later registered as a charity – only after it collapsed did the full story of who had funded it emerge.
Read the tedious and depressing details in the Guardian or on this site here.
How did Fox achieve this position, after the scandal that brought him down six years ago? Monbiot explains: “The man who ran the UK branch of The Atlantic Bridge was his friend Adam Werrity, who . . . carried a business card naming him as Fox’s adviser but was never employed by the Ministry of Defence, joined the secretary of state on numerous ministerial visits overseas, and made frequent visits to Fox’s office”.
The Charity Commission investigated The Atlantic Bridge and determined that its work didn’t look very charitable. It had to pay back the tax from which it had been exempted (Hintze picked up the bill) and the trustees shut the organisation down. Monbiot continues; “As the story about Adam Werrity’s unauthorised involvement in the business of government began to grow, Fox made a number of misleading statements. He was left with no choice but to resign”.
As the Financial Times reported, the election of Donald Trump transformed the fortunes of Liam Fox: he is back on the front bench, with a crucial and sensitive portfolio – Secretary of State for International Trade – an indispensable member of Theresa May’s front bench team: “The shadow diplomatic mission he developed through The Atlantic Bridge plugs him straight into the Trump administration”.
Taking back control from Europe means closer integration with the US
Monbiot adds that European laws protecting the public interest were portrayed by Conservative Eurosceptics as intolerable intrusions on corporate freedom and the transatlantic ‘special relationship’ is a relationship between political and corporate power. He ends with the following warning, sent by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 to the US Congress:
“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism”.
Monbiot adds “It is a warning we would do well to remember”.
Much of the media is taking its usual stance referring to Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘handlers’ as though he were a pit bull terrier. The Times has determined that he was making a bid to relaunch his leadership which has been derailed and Jim Pickard in the FT, author of many hostile articles, focusses on pay caps but not pay ratios.
It is good to turn to sane and rightminded commentators such as Peter Burgess (Times comments) and Maisie Carter (recent article). Peter spells out the Corbyn message with absolute clarity and rather more bluntly than JC:
- It is very clear he wants top execs pay to reflect that of the lowest paid worker for them to earn more and not rely on tax payers to boost their salaries and for the top execs to earn a decent salary but nor one that is obscene (sadly so many Tories want to see the poor get poorer and the rich richer).
- He also wants to ensure that we continue to bring in workers when needed but ensure they don’t depress wages for British workers.
- Of course those at the top getting obscene salaries want to disgrace Corbyn because the last thing they want is for their salaries to fall under £500,000 a year.
- There’s big and there’s obscene especially when they are telling others to tighten their belts, can’t afford to pay you more then handing themselves 7 and 8 figure salaries and bonuses.
- What shows double standards are all those commenting on here who think salaries of over £100,000 a year are too much if somebody is running the NHS, a local authority or running a Union.
- I do find it difficult to understand how anybody can find the policies which have allowed so many workers to have their wages and working conditions deteriorate whilst CEO’s are paying themselves up to 700x the salary of their employees as being fair and something they’d support.
- I would add that labour to their shame played an important part in allowing these obscene differentials since Maggie was in office. Some of them thought £500,000 a year for them and their friends was not enough.
- Yes Corbyn needs to keep shaming all those, including some labour MP’s who’ve happily supported the policy of “austerity” that have hit the poorest whilst allowing the richest to continue to get richer.
- I’d support a return to the differentials back in the days of Maggie. Top execs back then were hardly struggling. 20x / 30x acceptable 700x isn’t!
Endnote: Maisie Carter’s appeal
“Unite around Jeremy Corbyn’s ten point programme, which proposes the building of one million homes in five years, a free national education service, a secure, publicly provided NHS, with an end to health privatisation, full employment, an end to zero hours contracts, security at work, action to secure an equal society, a progressive tax system, shrink the gap between highest and lowest paid; aim to put conflict resolution and human rights at the heart of foreign policy. On the last point, as the wars waged or aided by the West are the cause of mass immigration, we must step up foreign aid and instead of spending £37bn a year on foreign wars as our government does, invest in helping to rebuild these war torn countries”.
Read Maisie’s article in full here.