This shows the hollowness of the Tory Claims that somehow they are pro-feminist, and that the installation of Theresa May in No 10 is somehow an advance for this country’s women.
Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that the Independent had made a request for the official figures of the number of rapes that had occurred at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where immigrants are held while their cases are decided. The Indie noted that many of the women held their had been fleeing rape and war in their countries of origin. The detention centre is operated by Serco, one of the government’s favourite outsourcing contractors, along with G4S. Current legislation means that public bodies have to disclose information when it is in the public interest. But the Home Office turned down this request for information as it would harm the commercial interests of the companies running the centre.
Mike asked the obvious question: When did it become acceptable to use ‘commercial interest’ as an excuse to hide rape?
The question is rhetorical. Of course it isn’t. Mike makes the point that the framing of the request for information makes it clear that it has gone on more than once. he also states that as May was the minister in charge of the Home Office, she has the overall responsibility for what occurred there. And if she is indifferent to the crimes and abuse that happened there, what does this show about her concern for the rest of this country’s population?
The Conservative party has repeatedly used the excuse of ‘commercial interests’ to justify their refusal to release details of the failures of private government outsourcing companies, including private hospitals and clinics. I distinctly remember Mike reporting a few years ago on the way requests for information on the standard of care at the private hospitals and hospital management companies contracted in to perform operations and manage PFI hospitals as part of the government’s privatisation campaign, were similarly turned down for the same reason. Yet similarly confidential information about the costs of running public hospitals were to be given to private companies. This was a naked display of the government’s intention to privatise the Health Service, by giving every advantage to the private sector, while covering up their failures. It is exactly the same here.
The excuse that the information must be protected for reasons of commercial confidentiality while the state’s must be public is easily dismissed. If a private company is performing work for the state, then it effectively becomes part of the res publica, and it is in the public interest to examine how efficient and trustworthy that company is, for exactly the same reasons governing the release of information about public bodies. Part of the rationale for employing private companies is that competition leads to higher standards than possible in a bureaucracy. But competition depends on there being competitors, who are aware of the faults of their rivals, and can correct these to offer better services.
The fact that the Tories don’t want to release such information suggests that they’re not interested in genuinely promoting competition. They’re just interested in promoting private companies. It also suggests that the supposed superior performance of the private sector is a myth. If the number of rapes in Yarl’s Wood detention centre was actually lower than those in state management, then I don’t see how there could be any objection to releasing them. It also suggests to me that, outside of the usual recidivists, there are no other outsourcing companies bidding to take over such services. The government has got to stick with Serco, or G4S, or whoever, because nobody else is going to do the job, and if they go, the whole project fails.
This is exactly similar to the government’s promotion of private healthcare and privatisation of the NHS. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their book, NHS-SOS make the point that there is no market for private healthcare in this country, and that private hospitals themselves aren’t efficient compared to state healthcare. The result is that the government, in the form of New Labour and the Tories, has had to resort to continuous intervention in order to do so. And it’s very obvious that’s also the case here.
Private healthcare doesn’t work, and the NHS should be renationalised.
Private prisons and detention centres don’t work, and should be renationalised.
As for what the government’s refusal to release figures specifically about the incidence of rape shows about May’s feminism, it shows that she has little interest in women’s welfare, or at least, in the welfare of women who don’t belong to the upper and upper middle classes. Rape, and violence against women in general, is the quintessential feminist cause. Yet here, May shows that she has no interest in combating it, if it means that her precious companies don’t make a tidy profit. Capitalism first, women’s safety second. After Angela Eagle’s leadership campaign collapsed, one of the female hacks in the I newspaper lamented the absence of strong, charismatic women in the Labour party, and pointed to the Tories’ election of May as their second female prime minister. But this ignores the fact that Maggie Thatcher did not see herself as a feminist. Her public persona was so aggressively masculine that one of the feminists in the Observer dubbed her ‘the best man in the Tory party’. Much the same has been said recently about Hillary Clinton, who is as aggressively militaristic as any of the male hawks with which she surrounds herself. And the same is true of Theresa May. She represents the ability of middle and upper class women to break through the glass ceiling and take senior positions in politics and management. But she has no interest in protecting the interests, rights, dignity and welfare of the people below her, including women.
Mike says of this incident that it’s about time the honeymoon with her was over. I agree. She will do nothing for the poor, and vulnerable, and will just carry on with Cameron’s policies. The fact that she is a woman is merely a piece of liberal camouflage hiding the harshly, exploitative Tory policies underneath.
Tags: 'I' Newspaper, 'NHS - SOS', Angela Eagle, Asylum Seekers, Capitalism, Conservatives, David Cameron, Detention Centres, Feminism, Freedom of Information Act, G4s, Hillary Clinton, Jacky Davis, Margaret Thatcher, Middle Class, Nationalisation, NHS, NHS Privatisation, Observer, Outsourcing, Private Industry, Rape, Raymond Tallis, the Poor, Theresa May, Upper Class, Upper Middle Class, Women, Yarls Wood