Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Thatcher’

Richard Tice Calls for the Partial Renationalisation of the Water and Power Companies

February 1, 2023

Reform posted this short video, just over two minutes long, on their YouTube channel. In it, their current fuehrer calls for the partial, and rather half-hearted renationalisation of the water and power companies. He tries to connect this with Brexit, and has a dig at Starmer for initially backing it and then dropping it, saying he was no longer interested. Tice begins by stating that we are being badly served by the water companies, who are foreign-owned and so use various dodges to avoid paying tax. No other country allows vital parts of their infrastructure to be owned by foreigners. This is quite true, and Mike has been pointing this out on Vox Political since forever and day. This has been the case since they were privatised by the Tories great, molten idol of private enterprise, Maggie Thatcher, in the 1980s. He wants them partly renationalised – 50 per cent owned by the state, 50 per cent owned by pension funds, and placed under private management. This, he feels, will bring it the best of both state and private enterprise.

He’s wrong, of course. There is no magic solution behind private industry. When they’ve been handed state enterprises or institutions, their policy has always been the same: sack people and make those who remain work for less in poorer conditions in order to deliver profits and shareholder dividends. This has been done in the NHS, when hospitals and doctors’ surgeries have been handed over to private companies. In the case of GPs, this has also resulted in unprofitable patients being dumped and their surgeries closed. It also reminds me slightly of the restructuring of industry under the Nazis. Companies were linked together in a series of industrial associations, set up as private companies but membership of whom was mandatory under the Nazi regime. These associations were under the direction of the state planning apparatus running the economy. And the head of these industrial associations always came from private industry, even when the companies under him were state-owned. Obviously Tice isn’t calling for an extension of this system to British industry as a whole or its transformation into a centrally-planned economy. But he makes the same assumptions that Hitler and the Nazis, as well as the Italian fascists did, about the superiority of private industry. And as a true-blue Brexiteer he tries to link it to Brexit by saying that, as with the departure from the EU, this is all part of Britain taking back control.

Still, Tice has got something right, even though I think his speech is partly influenced by a BBC report today that Oxford Council has called for the end of water privatisation, as well as the outrage of the massive profits the private power companies have been making while energy bills have rocketed.. He’s clearly looking around for policies which he thinks will resonate with the public, and so has recognised, albeit grudgingly from the half-hearted way he wants it done, that the majority of the British public want the renationalisation of the public services. Of course, he’s still extremely right-wing in demanding more cuts to the welfare state, which he’s justified with the bogus explanation that British people need to move into low paid jobs in order to stop the British state importing more foreigners to do them. I posted a piece yesterday rubbishing that, and you should also read the comments on the piece left by the greater people reading this blog, who have added much more relevant information. But it is interesting that in this area of policy, Reform has moved left of Labour.

Not that I’ll believe they’ll keep their promises, anymore than I believe Starmer will.

How Can I Get My Book and Pamphlet Against NHS Privatisation Out to the Wider Public?

February 1, 2023

Okay, a few years ago – I was when Cameron was in power – I was so worried about NHS privatisation that I wrote a couple of pieces of literature about it. One was just a pamphlet consisting of a few pieces of A4 folded together giving the main points about NHS privatisation and how it was killing the health service. Another was a short book, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, which I self-published through Lulu, the print on demand service. Since doing so, I’ve had next to zero interest in them. I have a page about them on this blog. Simply go to the relevant bar, and look at ‘pages’ and you’ll find them there, along with other books I’ve self-published. Here’s the pieces about them from that page.

Don’t Let Cameron Privatise the NHS, David Sivier, A5, 10pp.

This is a brief critique of successive government’s gradual privatisation of the NHS, beginning with Margaret Thatcher. Tony Blair’s New Labour were determined to turn as much healthcare as possible over to private companies, on the advice of the consultants McKinsey and the American insurance companies. The Conservatives under David Cameron have continued and extended Blair’s privatisation, so that there is a real danger that the NHS, and the free, universal service it has provided for sixty-five years, will be destroyed. If the NHS is to be saved, we must act soon.

Long Anti-NHS Privatisation pic

Privatisation: Killing the NHS, by David Sivier, A5, 34 pp. This is a longer pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. It traces the gradual privatisation of the Health Service back to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, John Major’s Private Finance Initiative in the 1990s, the Blair and Brown ‘New Labour’ governments, and finally David Cameron and the Conservatives. There is a real, imminent danger that the NHS will be broken up and privatised, as envisioned by Andrew Lansley’s, the author of the Tories’ Health and Social Care Act of 2012. This would return us to the conditions of poor and expensive healthcare that existed before the foundation of the NHS by the Clement Atlee’s Labour government in 1948. Already the Tories have passed legislation permitting ‘healthcare providers’ – which include private companies – to charge for NHS services.

The book is fully referenced, with a list of books for further reading, and organisations campaigning to preserve the NHS and its mission to provide universal, free healthcare.

If you would like one of the pamphlets, please get in touch using the contact form below. All details will of course be kept strictly confidential, and will not be passed on to third parties. If you only want single copies of the above, let me know and I’ll post them free to you.’

Now with the NHS facing a truly devastating crisis and the Tory and hard-right sharks circling and demanding its privatisation, I want to get these out to as many people as possible. And I’d be grateful for any ideas.

Of course, one way would simply be to have multiple copies of these pamphlets printed off and to set up a stall in town, and especially right when there’s a strike. But I only have a very small number of copies of the books around at the moment. Also, the myeloma means that I am not as mobile as I once was, and the council and bus companies in their infinite wisdom have cut the direct route from where I live into the centre of Bristol. But I’m hoping this might still be an option.

For the self-published book, one solution might be to go to see the buyer for my local branch of Waterstone’s and see if they would be interested in stocking it.

I’m also considering writing to my local Labour party and asking if they would be interested in stocking them, as well as contacting my local Labour MP to see if she would also like copies. I’m hesitant to do this, however, as I put the blame firmly where it lies – not just with Thatcher and the Tories, but also with Blair and New Labour. Kier Starmer is a true-blue Thatcherite and devoted follower of Blairism. He has said some ominous things about using the private sector to aid the NHS, even though it’s due to privatisation, as well as underfunding, that is responsible for this crisis. The local MP for south Bristol, Karen Smyth, is very firmly on the side of the health service, but she’s also an admirer of Starmer. Reading her messages about the health service, while she says much about how it’s been run down, she doesn’t condemn outsourcing. I can therefore see the pamphlets being extremely unwelcome in certain right-wing Labour circles.

Beyond this, any suggestions?

I’d be interested to know if there are any left-wing organisations that would be willing to accept copies of the book and pamphlet and/or publicise them. I’ve tried looking on Google for small press associations and organisations that might be suitable, but none have so far turned up. One possibility could be contacting some of the left-wing news and comment sites on YouTube and the Internet, but I’m not sure how willing they’d be to say anything about them. I haven’t had much luck in the past when I sent some of my literature to the Canary and a few others.

If you therefore have any ideas, please let me know in the comments section below.

Right-Wingers Outraged at Trans/Gay Pop Video, But It’s just a Return to the ’80s

January 31, 2023

Now for a bit about the latest right-wing rage about pop music. This morning there were a number of videos on YouTube by various pundits, right-wing and otherwise, discussing or denouncing a pop video. I honestly don’t know who the pop star who made it is, and have actually forgotten his name. I gather he had quite a successful career a few years ago, after which he came out of the closet and revealed he was gay. A little while later he said he was non-binary and now he seems to have gone a bit further in declaring his sexual identity. The video showed him in a revealing dress or robe, surrounded with dancers wearing chaps to expose their rear ends, during which he mimes various sex acts. Right-wing American YouTuber Matt Walsh was outraged, while somebody on GB News defended it, and claimed the video’s critics were homophobic.

What struck me, as someone who grew up in the 1980s, was how familiar it all was. I can remember when Frankie Goes to Hollywood were shocking the press and provoking scandal and outrage with their single ‘Relax’. It’s video seemed to be about a man in suit being pushed and pulled about the dance floor in a gay club by people dressed as gay bikers, watched by a fat bloke dressed as Nero. The single was banned, so say, by the BBC, although I’ve heard since that it was simply that one particular DJ refused to play it. This was entirely counterproductive, as the moment people heard it was banned they went out and bought it, with the result that it got to No. 1. And then there was Divine, an overweight drag queen and friend of American underground filmmaker John Waters, who starred in several of Waters’ deranged productions. Divine also had a hit in that decade, ‘Walk Like a Man’. Of course, Divine was a drag queen, rather than trans, but he wasn’t too far away from this latest attempt to climb the charts. The video’s shocking now, but it’s little different from what people were listening to and watching in the ’80s.

And the worst thing that came out of that decade was Margaret Thatcher. Her policies have done far more damage than anything that came out of the charts ever did.

Richard Tice: Cut Benefits to Stop Immigration

January 31, 2023

Michael Heaver is another hard-right YouTuber pushing Reform and praising Brexit to the rafters, despite the devastation this has wreaked on our economy and the lives and livelihood of British workers and businesses. If Brexit was a religion, his would be the blind faith of the true-blue Thatcherite fanatic. And this morning Heaver posted a video praising the latest effusion from Reform’s current fuehrer, Richard Tice. Tice is upset that 5.2 million people are in receipt of benefits. This, he declares, is one eighth of the working population. But at the same time, there are job vacancies going unfilled, which is why the government is importing foreigners. This is because some people on benefit are doing better than they would be if they were working, and so are leaving their jobs to live off benefits. The welfare state is properly there to support those genuinely in need, but people are using it as a lifestyle choice. We must therefore cut benefits in order to force people back to work so the government won’t import more foreigners as cheap labour.

There are so many falsehoods in this statement that it’s amazing in its own way. Firstly, most people on benefits in the UK are actually working. They’re forced to use state benefits as well because their pay is insufficient. As for people deliberately leaving work to live on benefits – presumably he means jobseekers’ allowance – does he know anybody who’s suffered that humiliating process? My guess is he doesn’t, because otherwise he’d know it was a lie. Actually, on second thoughts, it’s quite possible he knows it’s wrong, and is deliberately lying anyway. For a start, the Tories passed legislation years ago stopping people from receiving benefit immediately after resigning from work. The wait for a claim to come through is several weeks, so if your previous job paid so badly you didn’t have anything left over by the end of the month, the further wait would push you down to starvation level. As does the various sanctions imposed on the unemployed and disabled for the flimsiest of reasons. Welfare researchers and activists, like the excellent Disabled People Against Cuts, have shown that in the case of the Fitness to Work assessments, this is based on an assumption that a certain percentage of cases must be fraudulent. There is therefore pressure on the assessors to find the disabled well enough to work. Hence we have had assessors declaring that people in terminal comas were fit to work. They even asked amputees when they expected their limbs to grow back!

And then there is the humiliating process of claiming benefits itself. This takes its inspiration from the Victorian idea of ‘less eligibility’: receiving state aid must be made so humiliating that it will deter people from claiming it. It’s one of Thatcher’s disgusting ‘Victorian values’. And so you are required to spend so many hours a day looking for a job, keep a log of the jobs you’ve applied for, while the clerk dealing with you keeps asking why you’re still claiming and didn’t apply for that one yet. Claiming benefits is unpleasant, difficult and humiliating.

But this is ignored by Tice, who is simply spouting more of the ‘make work pay’ nonsense pushed by David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith when he was head of the DWP. And then there’s the stuff about immigration.

This is nonsense because Brexit has resulted in a loss of foreign labour. Many of the foreign workers in the NHS have left Britain, including skilled doctors and nurses. I think we also lost the foreign fruit pickers, who used to come here, which is probably the type of workers Tice is thinking of when he talks about cheap foreign labour. But when the issue of forcing unemployed Brits to work as fruit pickers came up a while ago and was being discussed, many of the commenters on YouTube had said they’d tried and been turned down as farmers preferred foreigners. Some of the farmers rejecting British labour said it was because Brits were lazy. Possibly. Or perhaps just not so easy to exploit.

As for immigration generally, I have the distinct impression that the type of foreign workers the government is keen to recruit are skilled workers, particularly in the STEM subjects. They are definitely not keen on importing unskilled labour to add to the number of domestic workers with a similar lack of skills. Though here again, unskilled immigrants do take the jobs Brits don’t want, like cleaners, as shown in Ken Loach’s film, Dirty, Pretty Things. But my guess is that when Tice and the other members of the anti-immigrant right start ranting about low-skilled foreign immigrants, much of their audience will automatically think of the Channel migrants. But these unfortunately haven’t been recruited. They’re asylum seekers, who have been excluded from the official ways of applying for sanctuary in Britain. Hence part of the hostility to them.

Tice’s spiel is pretty much the old Daily Mail directed at the unemployed and non-White immigration jammed together. It’s nonsense, but will appeal to the readers of the right-wing press, who’ve been subjected to the same bilge since before the welfare state was founded. It also bears out Tony Benn’s statement that when a government wants to persecute its working people, it begins with immigrants.

Don’t be fooled. Tice is not a friend of ordinary working Brits. The solution to the problem of making work pay is to raise wages. This is the solution in classical economics to the problem of a shortage of workers. But this would cut into the already bloated profits of the obscenely rich that Tice, the Tories and the other hard right parties are pandering to.

They want to keep working people poor, starving and desperate, whatever lip service they give to the welfare state. And they’re using the old spectre of foreign labour to do it.

Watchmojo on the Most Evil British Tabloids

January 25, 2023

WatchMojo is a YouTube channel that specialises in lists of the most (insert adjective) of whatever subject they’re covering. This is usually popular culture, like films, TV programmes and comics. But in this video from their British offshoot they delve into the very murky world of British tabloid and red top newspapers to discuss the six worst of them. And so, imagine if you will, this run down of the very worst of British journalism accompanied by the old style Top of the Pops theme as that sadly missed programme went down the music charts.

Coming last at No. 6 is the Daily Star for its coverage of weird paranormal stories like black-eyed ghost children, their libelling of the Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough disaster and getting sued by the McCanns for its malign take on the disappearance of their daughter. They also blamed video games for Raoul Moat’s shooting spree, despite the entire lack of evidence showing that video games are responsible for real world violence, and for making up an interview with Duane ‘the Rock’ Johnson.

Coming in at no. 5, pop-pickers, is the Mirror, showing that it’s also left-wing papers that can have appalling low journalistic standards. This is there because of its owner, Robert Maxwell, raiding his employees’ pension funds, and Piers Morgan publishing fake photographs of alleged atrocities by British troops in Iraq. This part of the video shows some of the other headlines from the paper, such as its ‘Achtung! Surrender’ to the Germans at the 1996 World Cup as other illustrations of its lack of taste and anything resembling decent attitudes.

At No. 4 in this chart of journalistic infamy is the Daily Mail, as illustrated by its article ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ praising Mosley’s BUF and its owner, Lord Rothermere’s trip to Germany and praise of the Nazi regime. The video also states that it’s been suggested that the paper’s pro-appeasement stance convinced Hitler that Britain would not retaliate if he invaded Poland, thus causing World War II. More recently the paper has also been sued for libel or inaccurate reporting by celebs such as Melania Trump, Alan Sugar and Elton John. The video also shows some of its racist headlines opposing the decolonisation of mathematics and opposition to non-White immigration.

The Daily Express is at No. 3, again because of such low points as being sued by the McCanns, scaremongering stories about the world being wiped out by aliens or killer asteroids, and its weird fixation on conspiracy theories about Princess Diana and her death, often at the expense of more current and important stories. In 2010 its editor said that he was appalled by some of the stories it ran, and was going to reign in its islamophobia.

No. 2, the late, unlamented News of the Screws. This was always controversial, but lasted 150 years, even claiming at one time to be the world’s best newspaper. That was until it was brought down by the phone-tapping scandal, whose victims not only included celebrities, royalty like Princes William and Harry, but also murder victims and dead soldiers. It was forced to fold after all its advertisers deserted it.

But the top slot in this catalogue of filth and sleaze merchants is the Scum. This rag’s viciously low reporting has made it notorious around the world, but what foreign viewers may not know is that it’s particularly hated in Britain for its smearing of the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, like its fellow tabloid the Depress. Instead of the Liverpool fans being responsible for the carnage, it was found that the police were responsible for the 96 deaths. This anti-Liverpool venom is the reason it’s still banned in the city, despite the paper having made some half-hearted apologies afterwards. It also claimed the Birmingham 6, a group of Irish men wrongly imprisoned for an IRA terrorist atrocity, were guilty. On top of this it was also sued for libel by Wayne Rooney. But what makes it especially hated is its staunch support of Margaret Thatcher, the infamous ‘Gotcha!’ headline for the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War, and its claim that it was responsible for Thatcher’s electoral victories with its headline ‘It was the Scum Wot won it’.

Of course this list leaves out some other instances of tabloid wrongdoing. The Scum has had any number of complaints for racism upheld by the former Press Complaints Commission, including one in which it compared Arabs to pigs. Piers Morgan has also been involved in the phone hacking scandal, though it’s possible the video mentions this and I’ve just forgotten it did. And I’d say the worst British tabloid was the Sport in its various editions for its mixture of sleaze, stories about freaks and daft stories following the Weekly World News style of journalism, like its claim that there was a B52 bomber on the Moon. The Sport was set up by David ‘the Slug’ Sullivan, according to Private Eye, a pornographer with convictions for running girls. But the paper has a low circulation compared to the others here, and so is far less influential.

As for the Scum coming first as Britain’s worst tabloid, I agree entirely, although I doubt this is an accolade the Scum would want to boast about on its front page. But when it comes to malign, biased reporting and racism, it is indeed the Scum wot wins it.

The Heil Once Again Bashing Benefit Claimants with Story about ‘Something for Nothing’ Culture

January 23, 2023

I saw a video about this posted on YouTube by GB News, which could be described as the Heil’s televisual equivalent. Oswald Mosley’s favourite paper published a piece today railing about Britain’s ‘something for nothing’ culture because they’d done some kind of survey which found that some households received more from the state on benefits than they did from work. I didn’t watch it, as I knew exactly what it would be like. The Heil’s published stuff like this before. Anyone remember one they ran a few decade ago, in which they ranted about the people of Britain all being on benefits because they’d found a street where most of the people were receiving some kind of welfare support. Coincidentally that street seemed to be occupied mostly by members of ethnic minorities, though I’m sure that this wasn’t part of the reason it was chosen by the paper.

The article was so stereotypical of the wretched rag that you could guess what would follow: rubbish about how welfare payments were too generous and were acting as a disincentive to finding work and should therefore be cut. More drivel along the lines of the Tories’ ‘make work pay’ campaign, which simply cut benefits and increased sanctions and pressure on benefit claimants even further instead of really making work pay by abandoning the wage freeze policy and actually encouraging firms to pay workers proper wages. But that would violate one of the central tenets of Thatcherite Conservatism: the poor should be penalised for being poor, in order to make them compete against each other in a desperate struggle to improve themselves, while the rich benefit from their cheap labour. As for GB News, they’re a right-wing broadcaster and so I’m sure they have the same mentality. The article was a classic example of how the Tories, the Heil and GB News, whatever they may say to the contrary, want working people poor, desperate and turning on each other rather than the people who are really causing their misery.

Get the Tories out, and ignore the right-wing propaganda in the Mail and on TV.

Reform Party Promising to Protect British Freedoms against the Government, the EU and Unelected Organisations

January 20, 2023

Okay, I just found a brief video on YouTube, posted eight days ago, on Nick Buckley’s channel. Buckley’s a former police officer and campaigner against knife crime, who’s appeared a couple of times on the Lotus Eater’s channel. I wasn’t surprised then, when he posted this video interviewing Richard Tice about Reform’s ‘Eight Principles’. In the video, however, he only talks about four of them. These are largely about protecting British democratic rights against the threat of the state and unelected organisations and quangos. According to Tice, Brits are aware that they’re born free and have inalienable rights unlike in the EU. Thus, Brits are able to whatever they like unless prohibited, while in the EU they can only do whatever the EU tells them to.

The irony about this is that the idea that humans are born free comes from a continental philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau has been condemned as one of the founders of totalitarianism. One Conservative American group made Rousseau’s The Social Contract one of the most evil books of all time alongside Marx and Engels’ The Communist Manifesto. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin included him among his Six Enemies of Freedom and the Lotus Eaters have also put out videos attacking him. But Rousseau’s book begins with the words, ‘Man was born free yet everywhere he is chains.’ The idea that you should be free to do whatever you want unless the law says otherwise, I think comes from John Locke a century before, and is the foundation of modern liberal ideas of freedom. However, other European philosophers also had views similar to Locke’s, that the state should be limited to the role of a night watchman, in the sense say that it should protect its citizens’ lives and property, but otherwise not interfere. This is the view expressed by the German philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt in his Grenzen Der Wirksamkeit der Staat – ‘Limits of the Effectiveness of the State’. I don’t know what the underlying philosophy of government of the European Union is. I suspect there isn’t one beyond harmonising various trade and other regulations between member states and allowing for the movement of labour and capital. The original intention was to create a united trading bloc to preserve western European economic independence from America or communist eastern Europe. The Eurosceptic right has frequently ranted about the EU being some kind of totalitarian state with comparisons to Nazi Germany and communism, but I’ve seen no evidence to support it. And rather than limiting freedom, I think the EU believes it is actively creating and nurturing freedom in its member states. Such as when it condemns Poland and Hungary for their legislation banning homosexuality and gay rights.

Now let’s go through the principles as explained by Tice and Buckley in the video.

  1. The state is our servant not our master.

I don’t believe any believer in liberal democracy, whether of the left or right, would challenge this. The only people who would are either Fascists, following Mussolini’s pronouncements that the individual is nothing before the state, followers of Hegel’s dictum that ‘the state is the divine idea as it exists on Earth. We must therefore worship the state’ and supporters of Soviet Communism before Gorby’s brief reforms. However, in the context of Reform, a party of the right, it seems to me that this is yet another bland statement intended to justify further privatisation and the expansion of the power of private industry and the destruction of the welfare state against working people, the poor, the unemployed and disabled.

2. Lend us your power and we’ll give you back your freedom.

This could be said by just about any political party, even those which were real enemies of freedom. Hitler, in one of his rants at Nuremberg, declared ‘Everything I am, I am through you. Everything you are, you are through me’. The Nazi party anthem, the Horst Wessel song, also has lines about German freedom. Hitler also talked about preserving freedom through separating the different spheres of party and state and preserving private industry, though in practice under the Nazi regime the party and state apparatus were intermeshed and private industry ruthlessly subordinated to the state. Mussolini also made speeches about how the freedom of the individual wasn’t limited under fascism, except in certain ways, all of which was equally rubbish.

3. People are free.

This means, as he explains, that people naturally hold certain rights and liberties that should always be protected and defended. These include freedom of speech, religion and conscience. This does not mean that certain types of speech have no consequences. I interpret this as meaning that he feels that people can say what they want, but people are also free to express outrage and take action against others for offensive or dangerous speech that is not otherwise banned by law. Tice goes on to say that in practice, while people believe in this principle, they negotiate to give up a certain amount of this freedom with the state.

I think here he means particularly the legislation on hate speech, which in his view prevents proper criticism of certain protected groups in order to combat racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and so on. He has a point, as opponents of gay rights, who have made their opposition very clear in speeches, often quoting the Biblical prohibition against it, have been arrested. In Scotland Maria Miller, a gender critical woman, was arrested for hate speech simply for putting up stickers with the slogan ‘Scots Women Won’t Wheesht’, meaning that they wouldn’t be silent, in her campaign against the proposed gender recognition legislation north of the border. In my opinion, arresting someone for saying that goes beyond a concern about stirring up hatred against trans people into active attempts to police thoughts and opinions about trans rights.

But there are good reasons behind the legislation banning hate speech. In the case of racism, it’s to prevent Nazi groups stirring up hatred against vulnerable minorities like the Jews, people of colour and gays, all of whom have been or are targets of abuse and physical assault.

4. National Sovereignty

This means protecting British traditions, institutions and culture from enemies both external and internal. The external foes include the EU. The internal threats to British tradition and democracy are unelected pressure groups and organisations. These include big tech and companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook. This is a fair point. These organisations can and do censor material posted on their platforms. The right have been complaining about their posts disappearing or the algorithms governing their availability in searches being altered so that they become invisible, but the same censorship is also inflicted on the left. If Tice and his crew get the chance, I’ve no doubt they’ll demand greater freedom of speech for their supporters while maintaining or even strengthening the censorship against their opponents on the left.

Other threats, unsurprisingly, are the European Union, while among the unelected organisations wielding power he puts the environmental groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and the gay rights organisation Stonewall. Tice states that a few years ago Greenpeace published their manifesto for Yorkshire, which was a diatribe against the car, and therefore, in his view, an attack on the automobile industry in west Yorkshire. One of the accusations the extreme right is throwing at environmental groups is that they wish to ban cars and private transport as part of their plan to establish Green Communism. He also includes Stonewall and the massive influence it wields, although no-one has elected it. There is a problem with Stonewall in that the advice it has been giving to companies, the government and the civil service has been wrong. They deliberately gave a wrongful interpretation of the legislation covering trans issues which was very much what they wanted it to say, not what the law actually did. As a result, a number of groups cut their connections to the organisation.

But unelected groups like Greenpeace, Stonewall and so on acquire their power through possessing, or being perceived to express, expertise and competence in particular issues. In the case of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it’s the environment. Amnesty International is respected because of its thorough investigation and documentation of human rights abuses, even though governments may pay no attention to its findings. Stonewall is taken notice of because it speaks, or claims to speak, for Britain’s gays and articulates their concerns and recommendations to combat prejudice.

Even in the 19th century governments had to pay attention to popular protest organisations, such as the massive abolitionist campaign against slavery, the Anti-Corn Law League set up by Cobden and Bright to have the corn laws repealed so that the price of grain would fall and working people able to feed themselves. There was also the anti-war protests against the Crimean War led by John Bright and others. There are problems with unelected groups exercising power beyond their competence or suitability, but modern governments have always had to deal with organised groups. Tice’s singling out of the environmental groups and Stonewall seems to me to be as much to do with a hatred of their views – the Brexiteers are full-scale behind the right of private industry to trash this country’s green and pleasant land – than with their supposed power outside of the formal sphere of elections. I doubt that Reform would ever go as far if they were in power, but it reminds me more than a little bit of Mussolini’s statement that there should be ‘nothing outside the state, nothing against the state’, and similar bans on private quasi-political organisations in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

But what you’ll also notice is that these principles tell you absolutely nothing about how Reform as a party intends to act on them, except by reading the lines. What does Reform intend to do about the health service? Not said. I suspect, in fact, that as a party of the right they’ll want to privatise even more of it. What about the welfare state and the scandal of millions of people using food banks? No answers there, either. I suspect, however, that in practice you’d get more mantras of encouraging people to be independent, find work and so on, coupled with rants about welfare scroungers. What about industry? Again, the reality is almost certainly that they want more deregulation. Well, we’ve had four decades of Thatcherite privatisation and deregulation, and the result is the mass poverty and failing economy we’re now experiencing. Industry should be acting for the good of society and its employees and not just shareholders and senior management. This means limiting economic freedom, but as the Liberal journalist J.A. Hobson said, in order for the mass of people to be free you need to limit the freedom of the rich. Which is obviously toxic to the Conservatives and other parties of the right.

To sum up, what Reform seems to be doing with these principles is to try to position themselves as defenders of traditional British liberties against the threat of the evil EU and pesky Green and gay groups. But this hides an illiberal ideology that views such groups as somehow subversive, would probably remove the obstacles against real, dangerous expressions of racial and other prejudice, and which would promote the interests of private industry against ordinary Brits.

We can’t afford to be taken in by sweet words hiding their true intentions.

Peter Hitchens on Tony Blair’s Stupidity

January 16, 2023

Yeah, I know this ad hominem, but it is funny. Novara Media’s Aaron Bastani interviewed Tory iconoclast Peter Hitchens the other day. The two don’t really have much in common, but Bastani justified the interview saying that if you want to be certain in your political views, you should test them by talking to people who hold the opposite. Hitchen’s is very much a man of the right, and some of his views are odd, if not barking. He believes, for example, that we shouldn’t have gone to war with Germany as it was not in our interests. Perhaps it wasn’t, but we had signed the defence pacts with France and Poland, And if we hadn’t gone to war, I think we would have still lost the empire sooner or later. Plus we would have been excluded from a continent under Nazi domination. And this is not to mention the carnage that would have been perpetrated by the Nazis, with the Jews and Gypsies becoming extinct in Europe, followed by the Czechs and the Slav populations enslaved as peasant farmers supplying produce to their German overlords.

On the other hand, Hitchens has said that he never supported Thatcher’s sale of the council houses or the privatisation of the prison system, because justice, as a principle, should be in the hands of the state. He also states in one of his books that he was shocked into an awareness of how fragile civilisation was after visiting one of the failed African countries as a journalist in the 1980s. The country had descended into vicious gang violence, but walking through its capital Hitchens saw everywhere grand architecture and all the signs of modern corporate development. I think this gives an insight into the basis of his own Tory views. I remember reading in the Spectator years ago that the right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton abandoned the left when he witnessed the rioting in Paris during the 1968 student and workers’ protests. He was alarmed by their ‘anti-civilisational rage’.

Back to the interview, Hitchens described Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, as being frightening intelligent. He mentioned people, who really thought for the first few months of Blair’s regime that it was Campbell running the country. He joked that it was probably because of Campbell’s mighty intellect that he was kept away from voters, as he would probably frighten them all away.

But Blair, on the other hand, wasn’t terribly bright and Hitchens doubted that he could have run the country without Campbell. To illustrate his point, he told the story of how he briefly met Blair just before the 1997 election. Blair was in Oxford, travelling in his motorcade. Hitchens was following him by bike, but as the traffic was bad, he got to Blair’s destination before him. After Blair had arrived, he was immediately surrounded by a crowd taking pictures. Hitchens wanted to talk to Blair, and so, after the crowd had finished and dispersed, he walked up to the future Prime Minister. He decided to open the conversation by asking who the crowd were. Blair replied, ‘They’re Brazilians. I’m very popular down there.’

‘Oh, you should learn Portuguese then,’ replied Hitch.

‘What?’

It turned out that Blair thought they spoke Brazilian in Brazil. Hitchens concluded that what Blair really wanted to be was a pop star, and you didn’t need to ascribe any deep ideological motives to him.

There was, nevertheless, an ideological basis to his policies. He was a product of BAP, the British-American Project for the Successor Generation, which was set up by Reagan to influence the rising generation of British politicians from both the Conservatives and Labour. Blair had started out as a supporter of nuclear disarmament, but after going on a BAP-sponsored trip to America and hearing the views of various right-wing think tanks, he came back as an opponent. He was fervently Thatcherite, believing in the superiority of private industry and strongly influenced by the American political system. Private Eye ran several pieces about the American private healthcare and prison companies lining up to donate to New Labour in the hope of getting some of that nationalised action. He took over advisers and staff from private healthcare companies as well as other businesses, and pushed the privatisation of the NHS further than the Tories would have dared. As stupid as he may have been, he set the course for right-wing Labour, and Starmer shows every indication of returning to it.

Starmer’s Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, Receives Donation from American Private Healthcare Firm

January 16, 2023

Some of the great commenters on this blog have been discussing the danger that Keir Starmer, once in power, will push through even more privatisation of the NHS like his Thatcherite predecessor, Tony Blair. In June last year, Left Horizons published an article reposted from the Skwawkbox reporting that his noxious Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, had received a £15,000 donation from a hedge fund which owns one of the giant American private healthcare firms, which is involved in the privatisation of the NHS. The article, ‘Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, takes donation from Tory donor with private health interests’, begins

‘Keir Starmer’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting accepted £15,000 from a donor with huge interests in privatised health care. The Electoral Commission’s register of donations shows that Streeting reported the receipt in January 2022 of the donation from John Armitage, a hedge fund founder and manager who has given over £3 million to the Tories.

Armitage, ranked number 138 on the 2021 Times ‘rich list’, is co-founder and director of the Egerton Capital hedge fund. According to the HedgeFollow site, among its almost £19bn of investments, Armitage’s fund owns shares worth almost £834m in UnitedHealth (UH), a vast US private health corporation that has spent millions lobbying US politicians for its interests. NHS campaigners told Skwawkbox that UH has played a key role in the ‘americanisation’ of the NHS that began under New Labour and continued apace under the Tories:

*the Health and Care Bill has just put into law an American scheme reducing state-funded services to profitable standards and pushing patients to pay for the rest, by rewarding providers who cut ‘unprofitable’ care (known as ACOs or ICSs)
*UnitedHealth was among the companies who developed this system with New Labour. Blair advisor Simon Stevens even became UnitedHealth CEO, before being appointed by the Tories to run the NHS to push through their ‘reforms’
*UnitedHealth subsidiary Optum is ’embedded in the whole process’. Optum was accused in a 2019 Science Magazine study of racial bias in its systems that result in less money being allocated for the care of black patients. Optum responded that its systems help “clinicians provide more effective patient care every day“’

The article states that the donation has raised concerns among NHS supporters trying to protect the service’s mission to provide medical care free at the point of delivery.

It also notes that Streeting was approached for comment, but didn’t reply.

Is Keir Starmer Planning to Further Privatise the NHS If He Gets Into Government?

January 8, 2023

This deeply concerns me. A few days ago the mellifluous Irish left-wing vlogger, Maximilien Robespierre, posted a video asking if Keir Starmer was planning to push the privatisation of the NHS even further if or when he gets into 10 Downing Street. I didn’t see more than a few seconds of the video, but it seemed to be based on Starmer’s cagey response to how he would solve the country’s current crises. While Starmer has promised to repeal the anti-strike legislation, which would definitely be a great step if he actually does it, he answered that question by stating that Labour would not be spending its way out of these problems. This looks like an attempt to assure Tory voters that Labour is now fiscally responsible and no longer the high-spending party of traditional Tory caricature. But the current problems in the Health Service and other sectors are partly caused by decades of cuts and underinvestment. In the case of the NHS, the funding has also been gobbled up by increased administration expenses created by privatisation. So where is this extra investment, and improved services, supposed to come from? Blair tried to solve this by pushing the NHS’ privatisation further than Tories had dared. Not only were further NHS services outsourced to private healthcare providers, but he also created the Community Care Groups of doctors, who were responsible for commissioning medical services. These CCGs were granted the powers to buy in private medical services, and to raise additional income privately. Starmer is a Blairite, as shown by his vehement persecution of the Labour left and embrace of neoliberalism. One of the great commenters on this blog has suggested that he’s an admirer of the Swiss healthcare system. This is a mixture of state and private medical insurance, the degree depending on wealth. In the case of the very rich, it’s all, or nearly all, funded by private health insurance. In the case of the poor, it’s state-funded according to whether they can afford a level of private insurance. I have a feeling Nick Clegg of the Lib-Dems believed in the same kind of continental system. This obviously violates the fundamental principles on which Nye Bevin founded the NHS: that it should be universal and free at the point of delivery.

No-one wanted Blair to push through his NHS privatisations and there was electorally no need for it. By the time Blair was elected in 1997 the country was so thoroughly fed up of Tory misrule and their policies that Blair could have pursued a traditional Labour policy of renationalising it as well as funding it properly. But Blair was a Thatcherite and intensely concerned to get the Tory press and Tory voters onside, to the point that Rupert Murdoch has been described as an invisible presence at cabinet meetings. Blair’s pursuit of Tory policies left traditional Labour voters and members feeling betrayed and disenfranchised and the party lost both. They only continued winning elections because the Tories were worse.

I joined the Labour party a few years ago, inspired by Corbyn’s commitment to genuine Labour party policies and the protection and renationalisation of the NHS. I really don’t want to see it privatised by Starmer as Blair did.

If Starmer does push through further measures to privatise it, not only will he betray this country’s working people, making them poorer and with less available healthcare, then it will also have disastrous consequences for the direction of politics in this country. The recent surge of identity politics following the Black Lives Matter protests back in 2020 has also resulted in a backlash and the appearance of anti-woke parties further to the right, like Reform, led by Richard Tice, and Laurence Fox’s Reclaim. If working people become alienated from politics because whichever party you choose, economically they’re all the same, it leaves the way open for the far right. That was shown very clearly in Margaret Hodge’s neck of London, where Hodge did so little to tackle the rise of the BNP that the stormtroopers at one point had seven members on Tower Hamlets council. Their fuehrer, Derek Beacon, even sent her a garland after their squalid electoral victories. What has been shown to work against the fascist parties and unite working people of different ethnicities and religions is effective, traditional Labour welfare policies. These are desperately needed in themselves, but without them there’s the possibility that Britain may go the same way as the continent in the rise of extreme right-wing nationalist parties.

Renationalising the NHS and restoring the welfare state will not only massive improve the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the British working people, but will do much to stop the racial division and alienation fuelling the drift towards the parties of racial division, friction and resentment.