Blog Archives

Austerity 4: cuts persist as the state offers even richer pickings for corporations

 Recently Lesley Docksey sent this heartfelt reflection:

“The trouble is we know the problem, and it’s all very well George and Seamas saying we have to ban this, get rid of that and set up something else.


“But how do we actually do it, how do we the people force a break between the corporate power and politicians?”

Despite the poor record of service by the private sector in prisons, transport, energy and water, British schools and hospitals are loudly threatened with takeover, a slavish imitation of our special friend’s policies for schools and hospitals.

Cameron's real change

Anne sent this link to an article by Jon Stone about the fire hazard and other structural failings of Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, first opened in 2000 under the “private finance initiative”, under which the NHS pays a private company rent-like payments to make use of facilities. The UK now owes more than £222bn to banks and corporations for these Private Finance Initiatives, conceived by Conservatives in the 1990s and ‘embraced’ by New Labour.

Will this hospital be handed over to ‘the state’? In other words, farmed out to Capita, G4S or Serco?

atos costs

In the FT, Gill Plimmer reported that the Official Journal of the European Union database, which records every public sector contract worth more than £115m, reveals that £20bn worth of government contracts is now handed to the private sector. About half of council waste management services and 23% of human resources, IT and payroll functions are now privatised. Tens of thousands of health, defence, security and IT workers have transferred to corporate employers such as Babcock, G4S, Serco, Capia, Mitie and Carillion. This continues, even though the reputation of the private sector in delivering public services has been repeatedly damaged – examples include the high profile failure of G4S during the Olympics and the legal action facing Virgin Care over its running of NHS and social care services in Devon. Monbiot’s devastating, fully referenced account of such failures may be read here and others have been written by Gill Plimmer in the Financial Times.

‘Mayoral hokum’

joe anderson liverpool mayorAs all these services are transferred via the state into corporate care, the cities themselves are being coerced to follow the mayoral route – which, as Steve Beauchampé notes in the Birmingham Press -was soundly rejected by voters in Birmingham, Coventry and seven other cities.

Did Liverpool – which held no referendum – make the right choice?

Chancellor Osborne is insisting that powers must be devolved through the office of a regional mayor – so much easier to induce or threaten than a whole council – a puppet?

As economic geographer, Professor Michael Chisholm summarised the position more politely, “One could cynically say that the proposal for elected mayors is yet another structural diversion while the steady centralisation of power continues”.

Beauchampé proposes consigning this ‘mayoral hokum’ to its rightful place in the dustbin of history, rejecting the notion that in a democracy just one person can understand, represent and address people’s priorities, needs and hopes, creating and implementing a vision for our fast changing region and its youthful population. He sets out a ‘radical’ – because truly democratic – alternative as a draft proposal.

But, as Lesley asks, “how do we the people force the break between the corporate power and politicians?”

Proportional representation could be the first step.


Simon Jenkins: “the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”

Today Donald sent round this valuable link to yet another gem of incisive thought and devastating mockery by national treasure, Simon Jenkins

trident submarine

Political Concern summarises points he made for reluctant or busy readers:

Jenkins “just cannot get enough of the Scottish referendum debate. On every side the unthinkable is thought, the unsayable said . . . revealing swamps of intellectual confusion our rulers would rather keep hidden . . . The murky covers are removed from:

  • North Sea oil,
  • the single currency,
  • the Barnett formula,
  • welfare dependency,
  • the West Lothian question
  • and the fate of Faslane and its Trident submarine base”.


No sensible defence expert Jenkins has ever encountered has any time for Trident. Its sole supporters are those with money in the project and lobbyists employed by them: “The world in which these people move is not one of soldiers, guns and bombs but of thinktanks, travel grants and seminars”.

gravy train

Faslane and its missiles will cost British taxpayers £100bn over the next 25 years, but Britain could invade a dozen countries and seize their terrorists for less.

The language is that of faded imperialists . . .

A BBC programme on the topic by Andrew Neil on Tuesday revealed a cast of gloom-laden defence pundits bewailing Britain’s “loss of influence” if Scotland were “lost” and Faslane closed. Our seat at the top table would be removed. Hardly anyone mentioned defence, just prestige . . . out of their time. The only power they know is PowerPoint.

Relocate to Devon or the United States?

american hubris2An intriguing insight into the politics of nuclear weapons is Rusi’s tangential dismissal of concerns over an “accidental ignition of one or all of a submarine’s Trident D5 missiles” and the resulting contamination of 260,000 Devonians. The ignition of the warheads would also make a dreadful mess of Truro . . . but the defence ministry has the right to “waive safety requirements” where it is “in the interests of urgent national security”. The Rusi report discusses basing Britain’s deterrent where it surely belongs, in the US (birthplace of its missiles), particularly as we are told that the Americans retain the secret warhead codes specifically to forestall independent British use.

The sight of a truly daft megaproject has Chancellor Osborne rolling on his back with his feet in the air, cash oozing from every pore

Osborne may be ruthless towards current government spending – he can guard a candle-end – but as soon as each multibillion-pound project – HS2, nuclear power stations, Heathrow runways, aircraft carriers – is announced in Whitehall, Jenkins watches the chancellor and a “rabble of salivating bankers and lobbyists (many of them paid parliamentarians) form a chorus to shout down any sceptic as variously killjoy or unpatriotic. The real victim is always the taxpayer”.

Was the Treasury once so effective?

Jenkins continues: “Not long ago, the Treasury was the one government institution prepared to call the bluff of such megaprojects and hold them to account. It showed lobbyists the door. It was the intellectual powerhouse of the public sector”.

Conclusion: “If the Scottish referendum does indeed force the absurdity of Britain’s nuclear deterrent out into the light of day, it is worth it for that alone. If it were to go further and kill Trident stone dead, it would be thank you, Salmond, thank you, Scotland”.

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