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
As Conservatives canvas vigorously in Witney, hustings were held at the High Street Methodist Church; but only candidates for the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party were invited.
Later, at Charlbury Memorial Hall, Churches Together in Charlbury and the West Oxfordshire branch of the United Nations Association organised a second hustings, inviting all the candidates standing in the by-election on October 20.
They included independents and other parties such as the National Health Action Party, represented by Dr Helen Salisbury (right), an Oxford GP & lecturer at Oxford University medical school, who fears that the current government is in the process of breaking up the NHS, inviting private providers to take over more and more services.
No picture including all candidates was found online; those who attended were independent David Bishop, who campaigns for better rural bus services, Robert Courts for the Conservatives, Duncan Enright for Labour, Liz Leffman for the Liberal Democrats, Larry Sanders for the Green Party (left), independent Daniel Skidmore, and Nicholas Ward, an independent candidate against the HS2 rail link.
16 questions were submitted by members of the 200-strong audience on Brexit but once candidates had explained their positions people asked for new topics to be discussed and the effects of climate change were next on the agenda.
Key topics were:
- cuts to local NHS services,
- housing shortages
- the shrinking reach of rural bus services (one village with 800 homes has no regular public transport)
- grammar schools
- the refugee crisis
- housing levels in West Oxfordshire
- traffic levels on the A40
- climate change
- affordable housing
Wind of change?
Martin Chapman, owner of a local grocery store-cum-restaurant, a long-standing Conservative voter and admirer of David Cameron, may have been speaking for many when he said: “I won’t be supporting the Conservative candidate. We are heading for a hard Brexit and we’ve had announcements like grammar schools with which I am really disappointed. It all seems to be going wrong. I’m backing the Lib Dems because we want politicians to work together for the best solution for the country. The decisions made in the coming months will have such a profound impact for a long time to come.”
Both Labour and Lib-Dem candidates are reported to have made a good impression – the outcome of this by-election may not be a foregone conclusion.
At least, one writes, there will not be the heartache of watching such a team fail – as did the widely hailed Blair and Obama – beset by vested interest and failing to fulfil expectations. Instead on past record there will be:
- more austerity for the ‘have-nots’, continuing as senior bankers flourish – despite causing the economic crash;
- declining public services;
- sub-standard education and training for the young from poorer families;
- ‘aspirational’ housing built on green spaces as council housing lists grow;
- the revolving door between big business and government continuing to spin, ensuring that decisions are made in favour of the rich;
- courting of foreign investment
- more poorly monitored, polluting incinerators;
- permission given for fracking in the politically opposed north;
- exploitation of smaller food producers, favouring food for export;
- lavish expenditure on HS2 and Trident;
- private companies entering the NHS and putting profit first;
- increasing export of armaments, causing mayhem in other countries;
- assistance for America’s military aggression.
And perhaps more:
One of the 99%, a reader who is an active West Midlands councillor, writes:
U.S. and EU trade negotiators, Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero reject accusations that they are pandering to multinational companies in their push to agree the world’s largest free-trade deal, saying that food safety and the environment will not be put at risk. Read more here: http://www.euractiv.com/trade/eu-us-trade-deal-wont-pander-big-news-531744
She continues: “I also read that Cambridge University have done a study and come up with food production shortages in this country by 2030 with development going the way it is – not very novel as I could have told them for nothing.
“I went on a tour round the borough last week and one of the sites was over by the airport where the HS2 is coming through.
“We stood amongst wheat growing on a farm of 300 acres which will have only 50 acres left when this useless project has taken its amount of land for the trains to zoom up and down. (Read about the effect HS2 will have on farms – and therefore food production – here.)
“What type of people have we running this country who take their orders from an unelected power base in Brussels?”
Colin Hines, convenor of the Green New Deal Group, writes:
“One of the justifications for the coalition’s cuts is the pretence that they are needed to pay for more infrastructure projects (Editorial, 27 June). Yet the emphasis on new roads and HS2 will be cost-escalating and take money away from the kind of local infrastructure spending that would result in economic activity nationwide. Increased economic activity could be fairly taxed and so get rid of the need for cuts, while helping rescue our flagging economy”.
“Tens of billions spent on low-carbon infrastructure and affordable housing would generate jobs, business and investment opportunities in every city, town, village and hamlet in the UK. Making every building in the UK energy-efficient and repairing, maintaining and improving the public transport system could prioritise the use of UK manufacturers.
“A crackdown on tax dodgers would make billions available to pump prime such an initiative. The result would be a reduction in public debt through a programme that improves society, the environment and the economy – the very opposite of the present cuts”.