Posts Tagged ‘Clement Atlee’

NHS Privatisation: Do You Want to Pay the Equivalent of $200 to See a Doctor?

September 20, 2021

This comes from a video on YouTube I was watching the other day. It wasn’t about health services except that at one point the person talking mentioned that where she was – America – you have to pay $200 simply to see a doctor. And that’s before he treats you or gives you medicine.

At a very rough estimate, that’s about £130 or so. Very roughly, and I might be wrong.

But it used to be like that over here as well before the establishment of the NHS by the 1945 Labour government. And people suffered and died because they couldn’t afford to pay for it. I’ve been watching Ken Loach’s excellent film on the establishment of the British welfare state, The Spirit of ’45. This is another flick I fully intend to blog about in due course and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the origins not just of the welfare state, but of the mixed economy that gave us jobs and prosperity for thirty years before the election of Thatcher. And it clearly shows as well how and why capitalism is failing but still being pushed, and why we must never allow the NHS to be privatised. It mixes archive footage from the period, including speeches by Clement Atlee, Nye Bevan, George Lansbury and others with filmed interviews with politicians, activists, writers, union representatives and ordinary working men and women. These include not only the awesome Tony Benn, but also Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist who co-edited NHS: SOS against the privatisation of the NHS with Ray Tallis. Doctors appearing in the film explain that before the NHS was established, you had to pay half a crown simply to see the doctor. Very poorly paid workers, like agricultural labourers, could be paid five shillings a week. If they fell ill, one of those shillings would be taken in doctor’s fees. And doctors employed debt collectors to get money owing from patients, who’d paid on credit.

This is what is going to happen if Johnson and his jackals privatise the NHS.

I mention this because there was a news report last week that more people are taking out private health care. This is not by accident. It is a deliberate Tory policy. Thatcher would have liked to have privatised the NHS, but she was prevented by a cabinet revolt. Patrick Jenkin, her private secretary, had visited America and was shocked by the American private healthcare system. Unable to get her way, Thatcher instead aimed to get a certain percentage of the British public to take out private health insurance.

As Mike has pointed out again and again, the way the right prepares industries for privatisation is by starving them of funding until they are near collapse and then claiming that privatisation will provide more investment and improve services.

And this is what the Tories have been doing since they got into power eleven or so years ago. The NHS is in crisis with cancelled operations and treatment due to priority being given to combating the Coronavirus. But the Tories never waste a crisis, and they are using it to demand further privatisation. The mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, released a video last week yet again demanding the privatisation of the NHS because of the crisis and the suffering it was causing his listeners, some of whom had relatives die as a result.

I have every sympathy for them. But the truth is that people are suffering and dying not because of any inherent fault of the NHS but because it is deliberately being run down so the Tories can privatise it.

Boris and his cronies would like to take us to a completely private healthcare system, financed through private health insurance. And if that happens, people will once again have to pay money simply to see a doctor.

And so we come back to the question: do you have the equivalent of $200 to see a doctor? Because this is what it’s going to cost you if Johnson and the private American healthcare companies that want a bit of NHS action get their way.

My Sketch of Clement Atlee

August 29, 2021

One of the things I’ve been doing to amuse myself this week is sketching, and one of the people I’ve sketched is Clement Atlee. In my opinion after Churchill – and I choose him solely because he saw us through the War and helped defeat Nazism – Atlee was the greatest Prime Minister of the 20th century. His government created the welfare state and NHS following the recommendations of the Beveridge report, nationalised the utilities and created the mixed economy that gave Britain unparalleled growth and rising standards of living until the crisis of the ’70s and the election of Thatcher in 1979. He also prepared the way for the dismantling of the British empire with the granting of independence to India followed by a succession of other former colonies, and its transformation into the Commonwealth. It says much about his impact on British culture that even though the Tories hate the welfare state – and under Thatcher they were extremely vocal about ending it – they haven’t been able to do it openly. They have just lied about making cuts so that the money will go where it’s needed. Which it never does. Just as they lie about the privatisation of the NHS. Oh no, they’re not selling it off, they’re just opening it up to superior private expertise and investment. Which doesn’t work and is actually worse than state management. Anyway, here is my portrait of the great man. I hope you like it.

Starmer Takes Full Responsibility for Defeat by Sacking People Who Had Nothing To Do With It

May 9, 2021

Well, there have been some successes for Labour in the recent elections. I’m very glad Labour has entered a sixth term in power in Wales, and that Jo Anderson, Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan were elected mayors of Liverpool, Manchester and London respectively, and that down here in Bristol, south Gloucestershire and north Somerset, Dan Norris has been elected the metro mayor. But generally, Labour have suffered an humiliating defeat in the local council elections. Keir Starmer said that he was going to take responsibility for the defeat. And so he’s done what he previously done so many times – gone back on his word. If he was truly going to take responsibility, he should have tendered his resignation and walked. But he didn’t. He’s hung on to power, and started blaming and sacking other people instead.

The first of these is Angela Rayner, who has been sacked from her position as the party’s chair. He has decided that she was responsible for the loss of Hartlepool despite the fact that she had nothing to do with it. It was really the fault of his personal private secretary, Jenny Chapman, who, as Mike has posted over at Vox Political, decided on the candidate and chose the date of May 6th. But Chapman remains in place. Others who are lined up for the chop apparently include Lisa Nandy and Anneliese Dodds. This also reminds me of the incident a few weeks ago when Starmer blamed somebody else for a Labour loss. Apparently they failed to communicate his ‘vision’ properly. This would have been impossible. Starmer doesn’t have a vision. As Zelo Street has pointed out, Starmer has constantly evaded. He’s also defiantly agreed with BoJob on various issues and, as leader of the opposition, has spectacularly failed to oppose. People are heartily sick of him. The polls show that the reason the good folk of Hartlepool didn’t vote Labour was him.

And then there are the ‘charmless nurks’, as Norman Stanley Fletcher, the Sartre of Slade prison would say, that Starmer supposedly no wants in his cabinet. Wes Streeting, the bagman between him and the Board of Deputies, a thoroughly poisonous character; the Chuckle Sisters Rachel Reeves and Jessica Philips, who are so left-wing and progressive that they went to a party celebrating 100 years or so of the Spectator, and Hilary ‘Bomber’ Benn. Benn is the man, who wanted us to bomb Syria, as if Britain wasn’t already responsible for enough carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East. He’s been in Private Eye several times as head of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. This used to be the public body that put British aid money into needed projects in the Developing World. Under Benn it’s been privatised, and now only gives money that will provide a profit for shareholders. It’s yet more western capitalist exploitation of the Third World. None of these bozos should be anywhere near power in the Labour party. They’re Thatcherites, who if given shadow cabinet posts, will lead Labour into yet more electoral defeat.

Already the Net has been filled with peeps giving their views on what Starmer should do next. The mad right-wing radio host, Alex Belfield, posted a video stating that Starmer was immensely rich, with millions of acres of land, and out of touch with working people. If Starmer really wants power, he declared, he should drop the ‘woke’ nonsense and talk about things ordinary people are interested in, like roads, buses and so on. And he should talk to Nigel Farage about connecting with ordinary people.

Belfield speaks to the constituency that backed UKIP – the White working class, who feel that Labour has abandoned them in favour of ethnic minorities. But part of Labour’s problem is that Starmer doesn’t appeal to Blacks and Asians. He drove them away with his tepid, opportunistic support of Black Lives Matter and his defence of the party bureaucrats credibly accused of bullying and racially abusing Diane Abbott and other non-White Labour MPs and officials. He’s also right in that Starmer is rich and doesn’t appeal to the working class. He’s a Blairite, which means he’s going for the middle class, swing or Tory vote. But there have been Labour politicos from privileged backgrounds, who have worked for the ordinary man and woman, and were respected for it. Tony Benn was a lord, and Jeremy Corbyn I think comes from a very middle class background. As did Clement Attlee. Being ‘woke’ – having a feminist, anti-racist stance with policies to combat discrimination against and promote women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ peeps needn’t be an electoral liability if they are couple with policies that also benefit the White working class. Like getting decent wages, defending workers’ rights, reversing the privatisation of the health service and strengthening the welfare state that so that it does provide properly for the poor, the old, the disabled, the sick and the unemployed. These are policies that benefit all working people, regardless of their colour, sex or sexuality.

It’s when these policies are abandoned in favour of the middle class with only the pro-minority policies retained to mark the party as left-wing or liberal, that the working class feels abandoned. Blair and Brown did this, and so helped the rise of UKIP and now the kind of working class discontent that is favouring the Tories.

And it’ll only get worse if Starmer turns fully to Blairism.

The only way to restore the party’s fortunes is to return to the popular policies of Jeremy Corbyn, and for Starmer to resign.

See: #Starmergeddon as panicking Labour leader lashes out in night of swivel-eyed lunacy | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer – No Vision, No Votes (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer IS UNRAVELLING (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Desperate Tories Start Lying about Building the Health Service

October 1, 2019

Boris Johnson and his odious chums must be feeling the pressure from Corbyn and Labour, as they’ve reverted to doing what they always do in a tight squeeze: start lying about how they’re really good for the NHS. Right at the start of the Tory conference, one of the candidate claimed that they founded it. Oh no, they didn’t! Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece demolishing this porkie. He pointed out that when Labour put the bill founding the NHS to parliament, they claimed to welcome it, but then sought to deny it a third reading. The reason?

It “discourages voluntary effort and association; mutilates the structure of local governent; dangerously increases Ministerial power and patronage; appropriates trust funds and benefactions in contempt of the wishes of donors and subscribers; and undermines the freedom and independence of the medical profession to the detriment of the nation”.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/09/29/tory-nhs-claims-are-a-poor-attempt-to-patch-up-the-dirty-open-wound-that-is-their-record/

Mike comments

Even that was a lie. Healthcare before the NHS was a nightmare for working people. Read the books of Harry Leslie Smith for information on the way a private health system fails to work. That was a hindrance to the nation.

I’ve put up many posts myself on this blog pointing out how poor healthcare was for ordinary working people before the introduction of the NHS. There were hospitals run by local authorities, but these varied enormously in the quality of care. There were also charity hospitals as well as the fully private. However, the charity hospitals relied heavily on donations and so spent much of their time trying to raise cash, and care in them was also frequently poor. Doctors were outside the system of minimal state provision, and so charged fees. After the Liberals came to power there was a system of state insurance available to pay the medical bills of some, but not all types of worker. The result was that there were millions, who were not covered by any type of insurance. Many people simply could not afford medical treatment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the Tories try to claim to they invented the NHS, or supported it. They tried it again under Jeremy Hunt a few years ago. And that was also a lie. The NHS was first proposed by Lord Beveridge, a Liberal peer, and put into action and ardently supported by Labour under Clement Atlee and the awesome Nye Bevan. It’s ultimate ancestry goes back to Sidney and Beatrice Webb’s minority report on healthcare provision in Britain right at the start of the 20th century, which recommended a comprehensive system of state healthcare. In the 1930s the Socialist Medical Society, the Fabian Society, now sadly riddled with Blairites, and the Labour party all demanded the establishment of a system of state medical care.

I have had Tories turn up on this blog arguing that Churchill and the Tories were as in favour of the NHS as anyone else, but that they voted against it because it wasn’t costed properly for some reason. Just as Clement Atlee didn’t initially vote for it. Now it’s true that some Labour figures didn’t vote for the NHS initially, as you can see in the lists of those who did given in a book attacking the Tories for blocking the NHS, published by the Left Book Club. But the above statement by the Tories attacking the embryonic NHS and defending a system of largely private healthcare that left millions in grinding poverty with no chance of any proper medical provision refutes this nonsense. And in case there’s any doubt of the Tories’ attitude towards the NHS, a few years after its foundation, in the early 1950s the Tory right tried to have it abolished on the grounds that it was too expensive.

And where have we heard that one before? Oh yes, from Maggie Thatcher, Dave Cameron, Tweezer and the rest of them, all arguing that the introduction of private medicine into the NHS will make it cheaper and more efficient. Only it doesn’t. It makes it more expensive. Hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative are more expensive and have fewer beds than hospitals build using direct state funds. PFI is a fraud, and merely a way-station on the road to the complete privatisation of the NHS. As Mike blogged a few days ago, it’s now saddled the NHS with a debt £50bn, which will probably be closer to £80bn when the debts come to an end in the 2030s. Yes, Labour massively increased the use PFI contracts as part of Blair’s ‘Third Way’. But it was introduced by Peter Lilley under John Major as a deliberate way of opening up the NHS to private industry.

Yes, the NHS has PFI debts – but put the blame where it’s due… on the TORIES

The Tories, or at least some of them, have always wanted to privatise the NHS, because they hate the idea of working people receiving free healthcare at the point of need and service.

And then a few days ago, Boris announced that he was going to be build 40 spanking new hospitals. Except that he won’t. According to the Sage of Crewe on Zelo Street, the greatest number of hospitals that will get built are six. When questioned about the number by Andrew Marr on his show, Bozo blustered that he had a long-term infrastructure plan, and there was seed funding for these hospitals. Zelo Street pointed out that his ‘long-term infrastructure plan is just a rip-off of Cameron’s ‘long term economic plan’. And the seed funding means that while the government pays of securing the land, legal work and ensuring access. someone else will actually have to build them. Yes, it the PFI once again.

‘That sounds like either the PFI that began under John Major, was carried on by Tone and Pa Broon, and even though Cameron and Osborne slagged it off, they did it too – or it means someone else will own and run the hospitals – not necessarily the NHS.

Bozo just confirmed what we already knew – you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/09/tories-40-new-hospitals-arent.html

And the Skwawkbox also reminded people of the last time the Tories started lying about the NHS when an election was looming.

This was in the run-up to the elections that allowed the Tory-Lib Dem coalition to seize power, c. 2008 or so. Cameron was claiming to defend the NHS from Blair’s cuts. He and IDS very ostentatiously set about a campaign against hospital closures. When the Gruesome Twosome of Cameron and Clegg got in, of course, that campaign suddenly vanished. And it was back to cuts and hospital closures as normal.

For a reminder, see the Skwawkbox article at: https://skwawkbox.org/2019/09/29/166-reasons-closures-not-to-trust-a-word-boris-johnson-says-about-the-nhs/

This also reveals that the Tories have closed down 166 mostly maternity and A&E units, and closed down another 100 NHS walk-in centres.

These closures are presented as local decisions, but the Skwawkbox shows that it is the result of sham consultations and a central plan to cut costs. As for the six hospitals BoJo claims will be built, they aren’t new either. And some of them aren’t even fully fledged hospitals. One will actually take patients and beds from another hospital, resulting in even less care for local people.

The Skwawkbox comments on the Tory lies:

Boris Johnson’s lips will be moving today. Don’t believe a word that comes out of them.

There is only one party with safe hands for the NHS: Labour.

Absolutely.

Shameless Tory Press Continues to Promote the Policies That Are Killing the Health Service

July 8, 2018

This year is the 70th anniversary of the greatest achievement of Clement Atlee’s government: the creation of the NHS. This was to be a system of socialised medicine, which was to be universal and free at the point of delivery. And the Tory right has hated it ever since.

The BBC has been commemorating the NHS’s birth with a series of programmes, including A People’s History of the NHS. The series’ name recalls the book, A People’s History of the United States, which looked at the history of the US from the point of view of ordinary Americans, including women, Blacks and other minorities, who have had to struggle to gain their freedoms, rather than the elite White men who framed the Constitution. These last were rich patricians, who feared real American democracy because it would lead to attacks on their privileged social position. Needless to say, the book has not been popular with Republicans.

At the same time, the NHS is in acute crisis due to the massive funding cuts inflicted by Cameron’s and Tweezer’s Tory administrations. Tweezer has declared that she will put so many billions into the NHS by 2022, but her estimations still fall short of what is actually required. Besides, regarding the NHS, the Tories cannot be trusted on anything. Remember how David Cameron promised he was going to ringfence NHS spending so that it would not be affected by his austerity programme? The first thing he did when he got in No. 10 was wind up his campaign against Labour’s hospital closures, starting closing them himself, and cut funding to the NHS. And then resume the Thatcherite programme of dismantling it through piecemeal privatisation.

So what has been the attitude of the Tory press to the current NHS crisis? Well, the Spectator, Telegraph and various other right-wing rags have decided to go on as usual, promoting the same policies that are destroying this most precious of British institutions. They’ve declared that extra money isn’t needed, just more cuts to eliminate waste, and that rather than the Tories reforms destroying it, they’re needed more than ever.

Neither is remotely true. The cuts imposed by the Tories have manifestly not led to any improvements. The only thing they have done is lifted the tax burden for the extremely rich. At the same time, the privatisations the Tories and their predecessor, New Labour, have insisted upon have not increased efficiency either. They’ve actually led to closures of hospitals and GPs’ surgeries as the private companies running them have sought to increase their profits. Far from being more efficient, private healthcare is actually more expensive and wasteful than state healthcare, as private firms have advertising and legal departments and must show a profit for their shareholders. Private hospitals, whatever Jeremy Hunt may rave about them, are typically smaller than their NHS counterparts. About forty percent of the expenditure in private healthcare firms may be in administration, a much higher percentage than that of the nationalised NHS.

Private healthcare is wasteful and inefficient. Which is why the Tory and New Labour businessmen and politicos with links to it want to remove the NHS and give private medicine instead state support.

And those voices, demanding that the NHS be privatised through more free market reforms, are shouting in the Speccie and Torygraph. And I’ve noticed that these are the pieces that are being reprinted in the I’s opinion matrix column, which selects pieces from elsewhere in the press. To my knowledge, the column has not included any newspaper pieces demanding that the NHS be renationalised. Because that’s one of Corbyn’s dreadful Trotskyite policies, obviously.

This shows the real contempt the hacks and management at both the Spectator and the Torygraph, as well as the other Conservative rags that share their views on NHS reform, have for the people of this country. They want the NHS to be privatised, and so British people’s health to suffer catastrophically, just to create more profits for the private healthcare firms, on whose boards they serve, and give more tax cuts to the already obscenely rich, while the poor are forced further into poverty.

Get them out, and Corbyn in for a government that really cares about the NHS.

No, Tweezer! It’s Not Labour that’s Attacking Investment, but Tory Privatisation

January 20, 2018

More lies from Theresa May, the lying head of a mendacious, corrupt, odious party. Mike put up another piece earlier this week commenting on a foam-flecked rant by Tweezer against the Labour party. She began this tirade by claiming that Labour had turned its back on investment. This was presumably out of fear of Labour’s very popular policies about renationalising the Health Service, the electricity industry and the railways.

But Labour hasn’t turned its back on investment. Far from it. Labour has proposed an investment bank for Britain – something that is recognised by many economists as being badly needed. It was one of Neil Kinnock’s policies in 1987, before he lost the election and decided that becoming ‘Tory lite’ was the winning electoral strategy.

The Korean economist, Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches at Cambridge, has pointed out that privatisation doesn’t work. Most of the British privatised industries were snapped up by foreign companies. And these companies, as he points out, aren’t interested in investing. We are there competitors. They are interested in acquiring our industries purely to make a profit for their countries, not ours. Mike pointed this out in his blog piece on the matter, stating that 10 of the 25 railway companies were owned by foreign interests, many of them nationalised. So nationalised industry is all right, according to Tweezer, so long as we don’t have it.

The same point is made by Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack in their book, Breadline Britain: the Rise of Mass Poverty (Oneworld 2015). They write

The privatisation, from the 1980s, of the former publicly owned utilities is another example of the extractive process at work, and one that hs brought a huge bonanza for corporate and financial executives at the expense of staff, taxpayers and consumers. Seventy-two state-own enterprises we4re sold between 1983 and 1991 alone, with the political promise that the public-to-private transfer would raise efficiency, productivity and investment in the to the benefit of all. Yet such gains have proved elusive. With most of those who landed shares on privatisation selling up swiftly, the promised shareholding democracy failed to materialise. In the most comprehensive study of the British privatisation process, the Italian academic Massimo Florio, in his book The Great Divistiture, has concluded that privatisation failed to boost efficiency and has led to a ‘substantial regressive effect on the distribution of incomes and wealth in the United Kingdom’. Despite delivering little in the way of unproved performance, privatisation has brought great hikes in managerial pay, profits and shareholder returns paid for by staff lay-offs, the erosion of pay and security, taxpayer losses and higher prices.
(P. 195).

They then go on to discuss how privatisation has led to rising prices, especially in the electricity and water industries.

In most instances, privatisation has led to steady rises in bills, such as for energy and water. Electricity prices are estimated to be between ten and twenty per cent higher than they would have been without privatisation, contributing to the rise in fuel poverty of several years. Between 2002 and 2011, energy and water bills rose forty-five and twenty-one percent respectively in real terms, while median incomes stagnated and those of the poorest tenth fell by eleven percent. The winners have been largely a mix of executives and wealth investors, whole most of the costs – in job security, pay among the least well-skilled, and rising utility bills – have been borne by the poorest half of the population. ‘In this sense, privatisation was an integral part of a series of policies that created a social rift unequalled anywhere else in Europe’, Florio concluded.
(pp. 156-7)

They then go on to discuss the particular instance of the water industry.

Ten of the twenty-three privatised local and region water companies are now foreign owned with a further eight bought by private equity groups. In 2007 Thames Water was taken over by a private consortium of investors, mostly from overseas. Since then, as revealed in a study by John Allen and Michael Pryke at the Open University, the consortium has engineered the company’s finances to ensure that dividends to investors have exceeded net profits paid for by borrowing, a practice now common across the industry. By offsetting interest charges on the loan, the company will pay no corporation tax for the next five to six years. As the academics concluded: ‘A mound of leveraged debt has been used to benefit investors at the expense of households and their rising water bills.’
(P. 157).

They also point out that Britain’s pro-privatisation policy is in market contrast to that of other nations in the EU and America.

It is a similar story across other privatised sectors from the railways to care homes. The fixation with private ownership tis also now increasingly out of step with other countries, which have been unwinding their own privatisation programmes in response to the way the utilities have been exploited for private gain. Eighty-six cities – throughout the US and across Europe – have taken water back into a form of public ownership.
(Pp. 157-8)

Even in America, where foreign investors are not allowed to take over utility companies, privatisation has not brought greater investment into these companies, and particularly the electricity industry, as the American author of Zombie Economics points out.

Lansley and Mack then go on to discuss the noxious case of the Private Equity Firms, which bought up care homes as a nice little investment. Their debt manipulation shenanigans caused many of these to collapse.

So when Tweezer went off on her rant against Labour the other day, this is what she was really defending: the exploitation of British consumers and taxpayers by foreign investors; management and shareholders boosting their pay and dividends by raising prices, and squeezing their workers as much as possible, while dodging tax.

Privatisation isn’t working. Let’s go back to Atlee and nationalise the utilities. And kick out Theresa, the Tories and their lies.

More Tory Madness at the Polls: Theresa May Most Popular Leader Since Churchill

April 29, 2017

What are they on?
Or to put it another way, how stupid and gullible do they think the British public is?

I’ve blogged today about the unreliability of the polls. These supposedly show that May has a 16 per cent lead over Jeremy Corbyn, who is, as the Tories and the Blairites are constantly screaming, supposedly unelectable. But those same polls, as Mike has said on his blog, show that the Tory lead apparently fell by eight points in just one week. And the I newspaper also claimed in an article this past week, that while May was in an overall lead, Labour was far more popular with young people.

All this is I can believe. I also mentioned in my last article about the polls a piece by Guy Debord’s Cat, where he argued that polling isn’t designed to provide an objective description of how popular our leaders are, or who really thinks what about a particular issue. They’re carefully manufactured by the polling companies – largely Tory – and the media – also largely Tory – to show the results they want, in the hope of influencing the electorate, thus showing the power of the press as opinion formers.

Hence the constant refrain from the Blairites, the Tories and their lickspittles in the press that Jeremy Corbyn is supposedly massively unpopular with suitable polling figures trotted out to show this. Supposedly. In fact, the media and Corbyn’s opponents within and outside the Labour party are absolutely terrified of him being popular. If – terrible thought! – Corbyn actually wins the election, it will put an end to nearly forty years of Thatcherism in one form or another. The rich might have to start paying their fair share of the public purse again, while the poor might start seeing improvements to wages, services and proper welfare provision. One that provides them with the maintenance they need and treats them with the respect and dignity they deserve. And it will stop the privatisation of the NHS, which UNUM, Branson, BUPA, Circle Health and the other private healthcare providers angling to get some of the market occupied by the NHS are so keen on.

Now I’m prepared to accept that May probably is in the lead over Corbyn in terms of personal popularity, because of the relentless campaign by the mainstream media to promote her. That lead, however, needs to be heavily qualified. Richard Seymour in his book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics has pointed out that the ‘Project Fear’ the mainstream media has launched against Corbyn in the hope of terrifying people into not voting for him has backfired. People are reacting against the media’s demonization and constant lying. And so far from making Corbyn unpopular, he’s become more so with people expressing their support for the Labour leader, and getting news and information about him, not from the papers, TV or radio, but from social media on the Net. This is being done spontaneously by ordinary people not connected to the Labour party.

But this is one claim about May’s popularity I find extremely difficult to believe.

According to Have I Got News For You, who announced this straight-faced, Theresa May is the most popular British Prime Minister since the War.

As the little lad used to say on Different Strokes way back in the ’80s: ‘What you talkin’ about, Willis?’

So we’re being asked to believe that Theresa May, who doesn’t want to appear in the leader debates, says she doesn’t want to talk to the press, and makes very few public appearances, and when she does, they’re very carefully stage-managed, is more popular than, well, great British Prime Ministers like Clement Atlee, Harold MacMillan, Harold Wilson or even Tony Blair and Maggie Thatcher? Thatcher was a disaster for this country, but she was massively popular. She was also was massively unpopular, to the point where she was supposedly the most popular and unpopular British Prime Minister since the War. She’s still the great, molten idol of the Tories and Blairite Labour. The first thing Blair did was have her round No. 10 for tea after he won the election.

Thatcher was so strident and strong that she got the nickname ‘the Iron Lady’. May, by contrast, is very definitely weak and wobbly, as Mike’s pointed out, despite all the cries by the Tories and the press that she’s ‘strong’ and ‘stable’.

So the question has to be asked: do the Tories and the press really think that we’re all that stupid to believe this rubbish?

Or, alternatively, have they been drinking too much, or partaking of Jazz cigarettes or other illicit recreational substances? I mentioned in an earlier post that the mugwumps about which May was asked, apart from being an Algonkin word meaning ‘great chief’, were also the strange lizard creatures in David Cronenberg’s film version of The Naked Lunch. Very roughly based on the novel by William S. Burroughs, this is about a pest control man, who suffers massive, very weird hallucinations after he becomes addicted to the poisons he uses to exterminate the bugs and other vermin. The mugwumps in the movie are just some of the bizarre creatures he sees.

Boris Johnson this week called Corbyn a ‘mutton-headed mugwump’, and now the Tory press reckons she’s the most popular Prime Minister since Churchill. Whether or not illegal substances are involved, someone’s clearly tripping.


Theresa May and Mugwump celebrate her lead in the polls. Don’t have nightmares.

How Labour Can Become a Party of the Countryside

April 2, 2017

Last Thursday Mike put up a piece asking ‘How can Labour become the party of the countryside again?’, following the announcement by the Fabian Society that it was launching a project to investigate ways in which the Labour party could start winning over rural communities in England and Wales. The Society stated that the government had promised to match the subsidies granted to farmers and rural communities under the Common Agricultural Policy until 2020. However, farmers are faced with the devastating prospect of losing access to European markets, while being undercut by cheap foreign imports. Environmental regulations are also threatened, which also affect the continuing beauty of the English and Welsh countryside.

The Society recognises that agriculture isn’t the only issue affecting rural communities. They also suffer from a range of problems from housing, education, transport and the closure of local services. Rural communities pay more for their transport, and are served worst. At the same time, incomes in the countryside are an average of £4,000 lower than in the towns, but prices are also higher. Many market towns, pit villages and other rural communities have been abandoned as their inhabitants have sought better opportunities in the towns.

The Society is asking Labour members in rural communities to fill out a survey, to which Mike’s article is linked, and give their views on how the party can succeed in the countryside.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/28/how-can-labour-become-the-party-of-the-countryside-again/

This is a fascinating project, and if successful would see Labour challenge the Tories and Lib Dems in their heartlands. The Tories in particular seem to see themselves as the party of the countryside since the 18th and 19th centuries, when they represented the Anglican aristocracy, who tried to emphasise the rural traditions of a mythical prosperous ‘merrie England’ against the threat of the towns of the growth of the Liberal middle class.

Mike states that one of the problems he’s faced as a Labour party campaigner in his part of rural Wales is the myth that ‘Labour wants to nationalise farms’. Clearly, this is the part of the same complaint I remembering hearing from middle class children at school that ‘Labour wanted to nationalise everything’. It was to allay these suspicions that Blair went off and got rid of Clause 4 as part of his assault on Labour as the party of the working class. But even before then it was nonsense.

Following Labour’s defeat in the 1950 elections, the party halted its programme of nationalisation. Labour was in any case committed to nationalise only when it was necessary and popular. Thus, Atlee’s government set up the NHS and nationalised the utilities, with very little opposition from the Tories, but did not proceed further. And the Social Democratic section of the party, led by Tony Crosland, argued very strongly against nationalisation on the grounds that it was not only unpopular, but the benefits of nationalisation could be achieved in other ways, such as a strong trade union movement, a welfare state and progressive taxation.

This held sway until the 1970s, when the Keynsian consensus began to break down. Labour’s response in 1973 was to recommend a more comprehensive programme of nationalisation. They put forward a list of 25 companies, including the sugar giant, Tate & Lyle, which they wanted taken into public ownership. How large this number seems to be, it is far short complete nationalisation.

The party was strongly aware of the massive problems the Soviet Union had in feeding its population, thanks to the collectivisation of agriculture. Most of the food produced in the USSR came from the private plots the peasants were allowed on their kholkozy – collective farms. Tito’s government in Yugoslavia had attempted to avoid that by letting the farms remain in private hands. At the same time, only companies that employed more than 20 people were to be nationalised.

Even in the 1930s and 40s I don’t think the nationalisation of farmland was quite an option. Looking through the contents of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham, I found an old copy of Production for the People, published by the Left Book Club in the 1940s. This explored ways in which Socialists could raise production in industry and agriculture, to the benefit of working people. The section on agriculture was almost wholly devoted to the question of subsidies and suitable government infrastructure to support farmers. I can’t remember there being any mention of nationalisation. The closest the book came was to argue for an expansion of rural cooperatives.

This project may well embarrass the Fabian Society. I’ve got the distinct impression that the Society is now staffed very strongly with Blairites, and it is Blairism as a barely left extension of Thatcherism that is at the heart of so many of the problems of rural communities. Blair, for example, like Major and now the administrations of Cameron and May, strongly supported the big supermarket chains. But the supermarket chains have done immense damage to Britain’s small businessmen and farmers. They force small shopkeepers out of business, and impose very exploitative contracts on their suppliers. See the chapter on them in George Monbiot’s Captive State. Yet national and local governments have fallen over to grant their every wish up and down the country. David Sainsbury even had some place in one of Blair’s quangos. I think he even was science minister, at one point.

If Labour would like to benefit farmers and traders, they could try and overturn the power of the supermarket chains, so that farmers get a proper price for their products and are not faced with the shouldering the costs while Sainsbury’s, Tescos and so on reap all the profits. At the same time, your local shops together employ more people than the local supermarket. So if you cut down on the number of supermarkets in an area, you’d actually boost employment. But this is unlikely to go down well with the Blairites, looking for corporate donations and a seat on the board with these pernicious companies when they retire or lose their seat.

At the same time, rural communities and livelihoods are also under attack from the privatisation of the forestry service. Fracking is also a threat to the environment, as is the Tories campaign against green energy. A number of villages around Britain, including in Somerset, have set up local energy companies generating power from the sun and wind. But the current government is sponsored heavily by the oil and nuclear companies, and so is desperate to close these projects down, just like the Republicans are doing in America.

The same goes for the problems of transport. After Maggie Thatcher decided to deregulate bus services, the new bus companies immediately started cutting unprofitable services, which included those to rural areas. If Labour really wants to combat this problem, it means putting back in place some of the regulations that Thatcher removed.

Also, maintaining rural communities as living towns and villages also means building more houses at prices that people in the countryside can afford. It may also mean limiting the purchase of housing stock as convenient second homes for wealthy urbanites. The Welsh Nats in the ’70s and ’80s became notorious for burning down holiday homes in Wales owned by the English. In actual fact, I think it’s now come out that only a tiny number – perhaps as low as 1 – were actually destroyed by Welsh nationalists. The rest were insurance jobs. But I can remember my Welsh geographer teacher at school explaining why the genuine arsonists were so angry. As holiday homes, they’re vacant for most of the year. The people, who own them don’t live locally, and so don’t use local services, except for the couple of weeks they’re there. Furthermore, by buying these homes, they raise the prices beyond the ability of local people to buy them, thus forcing them out.

This is a problem facing rural communities in England, not just Wales, and there are some vile people, who see nothing wrong with it. I’ve a friend, who was quite involved in local politics down in Somerset. He told me how he’d had an argument on one of the Somerset or rural British websites with a very right-wing, obnoxious specimen, who not only saw nothing wrong with forcing local country people out of their homes, but actually celebrated it. This particular nutter ranted on about how it was a ‘new highland clearances’. I bet he really wouldn’t like to say that in Scotland!

Labour may also be able to pick up votes by attacking the myth of the fox hunting lobby as really representing rural Britain. Well, Oscar Wilde once described them as ‘the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible’. Which about accurately describes them. They were resented in the early 19th century, when some farmers and squires started ‘subscription hunts’. Their members where wealthy urban businessmen, off for a day’s ‘sport’ in the country. At the same time, harsh laws were passed against poaching, which saw starving farm workers transported.

Mike’s put up statistics several times on his blog, which show very much that very many, perhaps even the majority, of rural people do not support fox hunting. And I know people from rural Britain, who actively loathed and detested it. I had a friend at College, who came from Devon. He bitterly hated the Tories and the fox hunters, not least because the latter had ridden down a deer into school playing field and killed it in front of the children.

Another friend of mine comes from East Anglia. He told me how many of the tenant farmers over there also hated the fox hunting crowd, not least because of the cavalier way they assumed they had the right to ride over the land of the small farmers in pursuit of the ‘game’.

The fox hunting crowd do not represent rural Britain as a whole, and their claim to do so should be attacked and shown to be massively wrong at every opportunity. As for the Tories’ claim to be the party of the countryside, they have represented the interests only of the rich landed gentry, and the deregulation and privatisation introduced by Maggie Thatcher and carried on by successive right-wing administrations, including May and Cameron, have done nothing but harm real working people in rural Britain. The bitter persecution of the farmworker’s unions set up in the 19th century clearly demonstrate how far back this hatred and contempt goes.

Counterpunch on Theresa May’s Plans to Celebrate the Balfour Declaration

March 7, 2017

Yesterday Counterpunch published a powerful piece by Robert Fisk, ‘Who Could Ever Feel Pride in the Balfour Declaration?’ attacking Theresa May’s plans to celebrate the centenary of the British Prime Minister’s declaration during the First World War to support the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Fisk is a journalist with the Independent, where the piece was originally published, and a veteran critic of Israel and its ethnic cleansing of the country’s indigenous, Arab population. He begins the article

Theresa May told us that Britain will celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration this summer with “pride”. This was predictable. A British prime minister who would fawn to the head-chopping Arab autocrats of the Gulf in the hope of selling them more missiles – and then hold the hand of the insane new anti-Muslim president of the United States – was bound, I suppose, to feel “pride” in the most mendacious, deceitful and hypocritical document in modern British history.

As a woman who has set her heart against immigrants, it was also inevitable that May would display her most venal characteristics to foreigners – to wealthy Arab potentates, and to an American president whose momentary love of Britain might produce a life-saving post-Brexit trade agreement. It was to an audience of British lobbyists for Israel a couple of months ago that she expressed her “pride” in a century-old declaration which created millions of refugees. But to burnish the 1917 document which promised Britain’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine but which would ultimately create that very refugee population – refugees being the target of her own anti-immigration policies – is little short of iniquitous.

The Balfour Declaration’s intrinsic lie – that while Britain supported a Jewish homeland, nothing would be done “which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” – is matched today by the equally dishonest response of Balfour’s lamentable successor at the Foreign Office. Boris Johnson wrote quite accurately two years ago that the Balfour Declaration was “bizarre”, a “tragicomically incoherent” document, “an exquisite piece of Foreign Office fudgerama”. But in a subsequent visit to Israel, the profit-hunting Mayor of London suddenly discovered that the Balfour Declaration was “a great thing” that “reflected a great tide of history”. No doubt we shall hear more of this same nonsense from Boris Johnson later this year.

He states that Balfour issued the Declaration in order to convince American and Russian Jews to continue to press for continuing the war against Germany, after Russia was forced to sue for peace the same year in 1917. He points out that Britain should, by rights, apologise to the millions of Arab refugees created by the Declaration, as Britain has done for the Slave Trade and the Irish Potato Famine. But he predicts that Britain won’t, because Theresa May needs Israel far more than she needs the support of the Arabs. Much of the article is really a discussion of David Cronin’s book Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel. Cronin’s an Irish journalist living Brussels, who very definitely despises anti-Semitism and Holocaust-deniers, and who faces up to the issue of the support of Mufti of Jerusalem for the Nazis and the Holocaust. The book details the British use of violence and repression against the Arabs, including the use of ‘extra-judicial execution’. Fisk also shows in his article how British prime ministers since Balfour, of both the Left and Right, have supported Israel at the expense of its Arab population. PMs who have supported Israel and its ethnic cleansing include Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson, Margaret Thatcher and, of course, Tony Blair. Fisk also details British complicity in supplying arms to the Israelis and that they gave no protection to Arab civilians when they were being massacred, such as at Haifa. Fisk states

Cronin’s investigation of Colonial Office files show that the British military lied about the “cleansing” of Haifa, offering no protection to the Arabs, a policy largely followed across Palestine save for the courage of Major Derek Cooper and his soldiers, whose defence of Arab civilians in Jaffa won him the Military Cross (although David Cronin does not mention this). Cooper, whom I got to know when he was caring for wounded Palestinians in Beirut in 1982, never forgave his own government for its dishonesty at the end of the Palestine Mandate.

But Britain’s support for Israel hasn’t always been reciprocated. When the PLO opposed the Falkland’s War, they were told very clearly by the British ambassador that it was no concern of theirs. At the same time the Israelis were selling Skyhawk jets to the Argentinians to shoot down our flyboys.

Fisk concludes the article

From the day that Herbert Samuel, deputy leader of the Liberal Party and former (Jewish) High Commissioner for Palestine, said in the House of Commons in 1930 that Arabs “do migrate easily”, it seems that Britain has faithfully followed Balfour’s policies. More than 750,000 Palestinians were uprooted in their catastrophe, Cronin writes. Generations of dispossessed would grow up in the camps. Today, there are around five million registered Palestinian refugees. Britain was the midwife of that expulsion.

And this summer, we shall again be exhorted by Theresa May to remember the Balfour Declaration with “pride”.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/06/who-could-ever-feel-pride-in-the-balfour-declaration/

No, Owen Smith, You and Neil Coyle are Not the Spiritual Heirs of Clem Atlee and Nye Bevan

September 18, 2016

Mike last week ran a couple of stories, which included amongst their other details the facts that Smudger and another Blairite, Neil Coyle, now seem to be trying to convince the public that rather than being neoliberal privatisers, they are really the spiritual heirs of Clement Atlee, Nye Bevan and ’45 Labour government that set up the welfare state and the NHS.

Last Friday, 9th September 2016, Mike commented on an article from Left Foot Forward commenting on how Smudger had been booed by the Corbynistas after he yet again invoked the memory of Nye Bevan, the architect of the NHS. Left Foot Forward commented that both sides were invoking this iconic statesman, but that their attempts to hark back to him were problematic because of the contradictory nature of his ideas.

Mike commented

Is it true that both sides of the current Labour debate will invoke the memory of Aneurin Bevan? I’ve only heard Owen Smith doing it – and inaccurately.

It seems more likely that Mr Smith wants reflected glory – he says he’s a fan of Mr Bevan so he must be okay as well – than to actually call on any of the late Mr Bevan’s political thought, which would be so far removed from the policies of Mr Smith’s strain of Labour that it would seem alien.

And concluded

You don’t see Mr Corbyn invoking Bevan at the drop of a pin, do you?

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/09/smith-compares-himself-to-bevan-because-he-seeks-reflected-glory-it-isnt-working/

Then Neil Coyle, one of the Blairites, started to bluster about how he was also a true, traditional member of the Labour party after he appeared in a list of 14 MPs Jeremy Corbyn’s followers wished to complain about for their abusive behaviour. Coyle insisted that he had been ‘defamed’ because the complaint was specifically against him for accusing Corbyn of being a ‘fake’. The trouble for Coyle was, he had indeed called Corbyn a fake, and been forced to apologise for it. He also accused Corbyn and his supporters of creating a victim culture, which must surely be a case of projection. This is, after all, what New Labour has been trying to do with its constant accusations of misogyny and anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum.

In his own defence, Coyle sputtered

“I am a Labour MP, joined Labour as soon as I could and will always be tribal Labour. I voted for a Labour manifesto commitment today based on decades of policy begun by Attlee and was in my manifesto last May. Couldn’t be more ashamed by fake Labour voting against internationalism, collectivism, security and jobs today. Time for a new leader who shares Labour values. Join now.”

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/15/neil-coyle-should-not-use-words-like-defamation-when-he-doesnt-understand-them/

Now as Mike points out in his article on Smudger and Nye Bevan, the NHS is an iconic institution with immense symbolic value, so naturally Smudger wants to identify himself with its founder. The trouble is, he and Coyle are polar opposites to what Atlee and Bevan actually stood for.

Both of them were classic old Labour. The 1945 Labour government had put in its manifesto that it was going to create the NHS, and nationalise the electricity, coal and gas industries, as well as the railways and other parts of the transport infrastructure. This was part of the socialist ideology that the workers’ should take into their hands the means of production, distribution and exchange. Bevan himself was a champagne socialist – he got on very well with the circles of elite businessmen in which he moved. But he despised the Tories as ‘vermin’, and his book, In Place of Fear, made it very clear that he felt alienated in Westminster because it was a palace created by the ruling classes to celebrate their power against working people. He was resolutely determined that the NHS should be universal, state-owned, and free at the point of service. It’s true that like some other politicians, he considered charging hospital patients a ‘hotel’ charge for taking up beds, but he dropped this idea. And the reason he left office was in disgust at the introduction of prescription charges.

This is in exact opposition to Blair and his ideological descendants in Progress, Saving Labour and Tomorrow’s Labour. Blair vastly extended the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS, quite apart from demanding the repeal of Clause 4, which committed the party to nationalisation. He and his followers, Smudger, Coyle and the like, stand for privatisation and the dismantlement of the welfare state. While Bevan wanted to remove the fear of want and destitution from millions of the working class, Blair and co have striven with the Tories to bring it back, through measures designed to ingratiate themselves with the Tory press. Such as the introduction of the Work Capability Test, which was launched after a conference in the early 2000s with the Labour party in consultation with insurance fraudsters, Unum, and which specifically assumes most disabled people claiming benefit are malingerers. And then there was the case of Rachel Reeves declaring that New Labour would be even harder on benefit claimants than the Tories. Quite apart from approving comments from New Labour apparatchiks about the wonders of workfare.

As for Coyle’s claim that he supports ‘internationalism and collectivism’, you to have to wonder when. For many on the left, who consider themselves ‘internationalists’, the term does not include imperialism and the invasion of other, poorer nations for corporate profit. But this is what Blair’s foreign policy – the invasion and occupation of Iraq consisted of, just as his successors, Cameron and May, are also imperialists. Mike states in one of his pieces that he doesn’t know how many of the 552 MPs, who voted for air strikes in Syria, were Labour; but he does know that two, who voted against it, were Corbyn and John McDonnell.

As for ‘collectivism’, it should be noted that this is not the same as ‘socialism’. Blair claimed to be a collectivist in making private enterprise work for the community as part of his vaunted Third Way. Which incidentally was the claim of the Fascists. In practice, however, this meant nothing more or less than the continuation of Thatcherism. This was shown very clearly by the way Blair invited her round to No. 10 after he won the election, and the favouritism he showed to Tory defectors.

So no, Owen Smith and Neil Coyle are not the spiritual heirs of Atlee and Bevan. Whereas the latter stood for the welfare state, socialism and improving conditions for the working class, Smith and Coyle have done the precise opposite, as have their followers. Mike also reported this week that in 2014 the Labour party conference voted down a motion to renationalise the NHS. This shows how far New Labour and its supporters have moved from Atlee’s and Bevan’s vision. They are Conservative entryists, who deserve to be treated as such, and removed from power before they do any more harm.