Posts Tagged ‘Privatisation’

Labour Elected Mayor Marvin Rees’ Policies for Bristol

January 28, 2022

I got this newsletter from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, via email yesterday. In it he lays out his policies for Bristol and how his administration is working to stamp out housing discrimination against people on benefits. He also promotes the Labour candidate for the Southmead ward in the forthcoming council by-election, Kye Dudd. The mayor writes

‘I hope you’re keeping well.

I’m writing to you regarding the Council’s budget – including our plan for homes – and the upcoming election. If you have any questions, then please do get in touch.

On Tuesday, our budget came to Cabinet for sign-off. Drafting this budget was always going to be difficult. The circumstances are challenging: a decade of Government austerity and the pandemic which has simultaneously reduced council revenues and increased the need for council services. This has resulted in us needing to find £19m worth of savings in the General Fund. 

These are challenges facing councils across the country. Across Britains major cities budget gaps average £30m and range from £7m to £79m. In Bristol we’ve worked hard to protect our frontline services by delivering these savings by reducing the Council’s internal expenses, such as through selling off buildings and leaving unfilled posts vacant.  As a result, we remain the only Core City to still maintain the 100% Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which means Bristol’s most vulnerable don’t have to pay any Council Tax. We have protected all of our libraries and children’s centres, our parks, and our social care plans that enable people to stay in their homes for longer. Budget decisions are never easy, but I’m proud that we have managed to find a way to prioritise helping the worst-off and our transition to net-zero.

It’s important that our General Fund is not taken in isolation, because it is only part of the budget. We have also set the Housing Revenue Account which commits £1.8bn of investment in housing delivery, and a separate investment budget for social housing. This is one of the most ambitious plans in the country and will enable the Council to:

  • Build over 2,000 council homes by 2028, and 300 more every year after
  • Invest an additional £80m in to retrofitting (making council homes more energy efficient, saving them money and reducing Co2 output) bringing funding to a total of £97m.
  • £12.5m to upgrade council tenants’ bathrooms improving quality of life and improving water efficiency in thousands of homes
  • £8.7m investment into communal areas
  • £350k for council tenants’ in financial difficulties
  • £13.5m funding to adapt homes to make them more accessible

Building affordable, quality homes is one of the single most significant policy tools we have for shaping life chances and the carbon and ecological cost the planet will pay for meeting our population’s needs. Housing remains at the forefront of our priorities. 

Benefits discrimination

Cllr Tom Renhard, Cabinet Members Homes and Housing Delivery, recently put forward a motion to stamp out anti-benefits discrimination in Bristol. If you have tried to rent a home in Bristol, you will be familiar with seeing advertisements listed as ‘working professionals only’, meaning people on benefits aren’t allowed to rent the property. This is discrimination – plain and simple – and we’re committed to eradicating this practice from Bristol.

In the past few years, we’ve been expanding our Landlord Licensing scheme, meaning rogue and slum landlords are no longer allowed to rent out properties in Bristol. This has driven up standards where it’s been in place and we intend to expand the scheme to cover the whole of Bristol.  This, combined with our anti-discrimination motion, means that landlords who discriminate against people on benefits won’t be allowed to let properties in Bristol.

It will take some time to expand the licensing scheme citywide so in the meantime, we will be carrying out other policies to help renters. The Council will now assist tenants’ efforts to take discriminatory landlords to the appropriate authorities, will run a public awareness campaign on tenants’ rights, and will create a local action plan to formulate policies to build on these in future – among other things.

Southmead by-election

As former councillor Helen Godwin stood down in the new year, a by-election has been called to fill her vacant seat in Southmead. I am delighted that Kye Dudd has been selected as our candidate for the seat. Kye has been a stalwart of the trade union movement, working for the Communication Workers’ Union for fifteen years, and has served as the Cabinet Member for Transport, Energy, and Connectivity – leading our work to expand our bus and active travel infrastructure, develop our work on mass transit, and decarbonise our energy systems. More recently, he has been working with Empire Fighting Chance, a boxing charity who work with some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people in our city.

He will be running on a campaign of:

  • ·        Investing in Southmead’s youth services
  • ·        Investing in Council homes
  • ·        Protecting local green spaces
  • ·        Making Southmead safer for all
  • ·        Supporting the community-led regeneration of Arnside’

It ends with the statement that it is vitally important to get Mr Dudd elected and the email address Southmead Labour party if I wanted to be involved.

I broadly support mayor Marvin, as I think he has done a good overall governing the city. He has tried to remain impartial about the controversy over the wretched statue of Edward Colston, despite his justifiable hatred of it as a man of colour. I believe the policies outlined here are excellent. My problem is with the Labour party as it stands under the leadership of Keef Stalin. Starmer has done everything he can to purge the left and turn it into another version of the Tories. One of his favoured MPs, the vile Rachel Reeves, added insult to injury a few days ago when she described those who have left the party in disgust at Starmer’s factionalism and treachery as ‘anti-Semites’. As I’m sick of saying, the people Starmer and his collaborators in the NEC have smeared and purged are most definitely not Jew-haters. They are decent people, many of them with proud records of fighting racism and anti-Semitism. About four-fifths of those he’s thrown out are actually Jewish, decent, self-respecting people, often the victims of real anti-Semitic abuse and vilification. They are not ‘self-hating’. But then, truth means nothing to the liars of the right, the British media and political establishment, and the Israel lobby.

I had a series of emails from the Labour party over the past week or so asking me if I would care to campaign for Mr. Dudd and help get Boris out, and Starmer in. Well, my health at the moment prevents me from getting out much. Southmead isn’t my ward, and the buses from where I live have become very unreliable, so I simply won’t be able to join them. And obviously I do want to get Bozo out.

But I don’t want Starmer in.

I see no difference whatsoever between him and Johnson. Both are lying, treacherous right-wingers with precious little real ability to govern and an intense contempt for the working class. They both want to privatise whatever has been left, including the NHS. I don’t trust him to restore the welfare state to anything like the level that’s needed, nor to strengthen the trade unions. He won’t give workers much needed rights at work. And he definitely won’t do anything to improve public services by nationalising them, despite the obvious fact that they’re decaying as we look under private ownership.

And the voting public aren’t enamoured of Starmer either. I’ve got the impression that at the moment Labour’s haemorrhaged support to the Greens so that they’re almost neck and neck with Labour on the local council.

Now I do support Marvin and hope Mr. Dudd wins the council election when it comes.

But I very much do not want Starmer to get anywhere near No. 10 and definitely want him out as leader of the Labour party.

Vandal Attacks BBC Statue Because of Colston Verdict

January 12, 2022

This evening, a man climbed up to a ledge on the front of Broadcasting House, the Beeb’s HQ, and started to attack the statue of Ariel by Eric Gill. Someone took film of him smashing the statue’s feet with a hammer, and it’s been widely posted and reposted by right-wingers over YouTube. The man was David Chick, and there’s a phone call from him on the channel of someone rejoicing in the monicker ‘Tyrant Finder UK’. Chick and the Tyrant Finder are both men, who can’t utter a sentence without using the F-bomb nor other foul language, but in the phone call Chick makes it clear that he’s attacking the statue because Gill was a paedophile. Indeed he was. During his life he professed to be the model of Roman Catholic piety as a tertiary Franciscan. After his death it was discovered that not only did he rape his two daughters but also the family dog. But Chick also seems to have done it out of anger for the acquittal of the Colston Four. And he’s being applauded by people, who similarly believe, or seem to believe, that the BBC is promoting child abuse with the statue and who are also angry at the Bristol verdict. The attitude seems to be that if the woke can tear down statues, then so can they.

Mad right-wing Youtuber Alex Belfield was one of those who put up an approving video of the attack earlier this evening. He has his own grievances against the Corporation. He claims he was forced out of the Beeb because he’s a poor White kid from a pit estate and not one of the middle class, Guardian reading, university educated Naga Manchushy types, as he calls them. He also has some kind of personal feud with various broadcasters, like Jeremy Vine. He frequently rants against the Beeb demanding its privatisation and the Eric Gill statue is one of the weapon he uses in the attacks. He criticises the Corporation for keeping the statue on its facade, which he seems to claim shows the indifference to child abuse which allowed Jimmy Savile to carry on with his predations unstopped.

Gill certainly was a vile human being, and some of his art does pose a genuine moral problem. A few years ago Victoria Coren discussed him in her documentary, How to Be a Bohemian, which traced the history of bohemianism from 19th century Paris and the Romantics to Britain, the Bloomsbury Group, the Bright Young Things and today’s London and its drag queens. Gill was one of the Bohemians she discussed. She was particularly upset at a bas relief Gill had made of a nude girl. I can’t remember what the sculpture’s official title was, but Gill called it ‘F*cking’. The girl in it was his 15 year old daughter, whom he was abusing at the time. Victoria Coren was talking to a female art expert about the sculpture and the unsettling questions it raised. The expert denied that this was a problem with a comparison to W.B. Yeats and his poetry. Nobody, she declared, objects to Yeats’ poetry because he was a Fascist. Coren replied that they did, and she was particularly unhappy about it. As her father, Alan Coren, was Jewish, it’s very easy to understand why Victoria Coren would have deep misgivings about the poet. It must be said, though, that Yeats was only a Fascist for a short time. If I remember correctly, this was c.1919. He later left them and was very critical about them.

I’m sure most people would be unhappy at Gill’s sculpture of his nude daughter, and would have very strong moral questions against its display. But it isn’t the Ariel statue. And there is still a need to separate the artist from the art. Many of the greatest figures in the arts, literature and science were vile people, or had loathsome views, like Dickens, for example. He’s undoubtedly one of the greatest writers in the English language, but he fully supported General Eyre and his brutal suppression of the Morant Bay rebellion by former slaves on Jamaica. But that in no way invalidates his work, in the same way that Orwell pointed out that Hamlet isn’t diminished by the fact that Shakespeare left his wife his second best bed. I also don’t think you can quite compare the Ariel statue to that of Edward Colston. The Ariel statue is of a character from Shakespeare, used as a kind of mascot by the Corporation. It is not a monument to someone who was a slaver, even if he did give most of his money away in charity.

Those defending and applauding the attacker are wrong on another point. They seem to believe that Colston’s Four’s acquittal has somehow become a precedent, which they can use to defend their attacks. But this isn’t the case. Jury trials, according to Adam Wagner, a lawyer on the Net, don’t set precedents, so Chick could still find it difficult to defend himself if he’s arrested.

I’m deeply unhappy about cultural vandalism regardless of who’s doing it. The attack on Colston’s statue is understandable given that it’s been a subject of controversy and demands for its removal for decades. And now it seems the right have also decided that they are entitled to attack any statues they find offensive, and I’m afraid that this will kick off more vandalism rather than reduce it.

I don’t deny that there’s a good case for taking some statues down, but I don’t support violent attacks on public art, regardless of whether it comes from the right or left. And I think Belfield’s attacks on the Beeb’s statue largely come from his own personal feud with the corporation and the Conservative’s demands for the Beeb’s privatisation and its replacement by a private broadcaster. This hostility partly comes from the Tories’ deep ideological objection to nationalised industries, their loyalty to Rupert Murdoch and his shoddy empire and their hatred of the Beeb because, once upon a time, it used to hold them to account. Some of us can still remember the time Michael Heseltine stormed off Newsnight, tossing his mane after a grilling by Paxman.

Britain’s statues are now threatened not just by the woke left, but by a vengeful, intolerant Conservative right using the outrage it has generated against the offending statue as part of its campaign to silence its critics.

History Debunked Questions Johnson’s Britishness

January 12, 2022

Oh ho! This is very amusing. The Tory party has always positioned itself, at least since the 19th century, as the party of Britishness. If you listen to its supporters and propaganda, it’s the party of the British constitution and the union, protecting our ancient liberties and defending our great nation from plots and attacks by evil foreigners. Historically this largely meant the French, but today means the EU and Scots Nationalists. Under Maggie Thatcher this nationalism became particularly shrill. The 1987 Tory election broadcast showed Spitfires zooming about the sky while an excited voice told us that ‘We were born free. It’s our fundamental right’ and ended with ‘It’s great, to be great again!’ Political theorists who’ve read, or at least heard of Rousseau could correct the first statement. At the beginning of his book, The Social Contract, which became one of the founding texts of the French Revolution, Rousseau said: ‘Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains.’ Which is probably not something Thatcher wanted said about her government. As for being ‘great again’, this was the period when Thatcher was selling our state industries off to foreign investors, destroying trade unions, cutting unemployment and other welfare benefits and trying to find ways to get people to take out private medical insurance instead of relying on the NHS. She would have liked to have privatised that, but was prevented by a massive cabinet rebellion. At the same time she was using her ‘strong state’ against striking miners and anyone else she thought was an evil Commie subversive while at the same time propping up truly evil Fascist dictators abroad. Like the brute General Pinochet, responsible for the murder and torture of 30,000 people in his native Chile. The country’s present grinding poverty and crumbling infrastructure are all a result of her policies. The identification of the Conservative party with Britishness was so loud and crass that, reviewing the election broadcast on Radio 4’s The News Quiz, the late, much-missed humourist Alan Coren referred to the planes as ‘the Royal Conservative Airforce’. I also remember one of the Observer’s columnists referring to the Tories as ‘the patriotic party’.

But now aspersions have been cast on the Britishness of the Tories’ leader and current head of the country, Boris Johnson. Simon Webb of the History Debunked YouTube channel put up a piece yesterday asking ‘How British Is Boris Johnson?’ This speculated that Johnson carries on the way does because, quite simply, he isn’t really British. He was born in New York, and is of mixed Turkish and American ancestry. He is also part Jewish, which is one reason why I’m not going to put the video up here. One of the elements of the genuine anti-Semitic conspiracies is the allegation that Jews aren’t really patriotic citizens because of their international connections and foreign ancestry and relatives. They have frequently been accused of being ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ with no real connection or loyalty to the gentile peoples among which they settle. It’s a poisonous allegation that has resulted in the murder of countless innocents and encouraged the formation and growth of Fascist organisations and parties like the Nazis. The vast majority of British Jews are as British as everyone else. And before the Second World War, the vast majority of Jews wished to remain in the countries of their birth, to be accepted as patriotic fellow citizens by their gentile countrymen. It’s why the leaders of the British Jewish community during the First World War actually opposed the Balfour Declaration. They did not want the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine nor anywhere else, as it could lead to the accusation that their loyalties were divided. And they weren’t. They were, and wanted to be seen as, patriotic Brits.

But there is a kind of irony in Boris Johnson, a pukka old Etonian, and true-blue Tory being accused of not being British enough.

And I think Webb has a point, though not in the sense he means. At the heart of the right-wing ranting and suspicion about the ‘globalists’, supposedly plotting to create an evil, Satanic one-world Communist state, there’s an element of truth. Regardless of their nationality or ancestry, it appears to me that the global superrich really are forming a separate international class whose loyalty is primarily to themselves and not to the people below them, even if these people are of the same nationality. You can see that in the way the Tory grandees and those like them move their capital around the world, investing in countries on the other side of the world while making pay and conditions worse over here and cutting benefits. As far as I know, Jacob Rees-Mogg is thoroughly British in his ancestry. He also projects a caricatured, right-wing image of Britishness very much like his nickname of ‘Lord Snooty’. He also backed Brexit, which was supposed to be another patriotic gesture in which Britain took back her sovereignty.

In fact Brexit has wreaked massive harm to our economy, disastrously cutting British firms off from continental markets and suppliers. The deals we’ve made, or are trying to make, with the Americans, Australians and New Zealanders are to our disadvantage, whatever the Tory mouthpieces say to the contrary. And the response of Rees-Mogg and the superrich like him amply demonstrate where their loyalties lie. Even before Brexit, Mogg had invested in companies in the far east. And when he was urging everyone to vote to leave the EU, he was moving his own financial interests to Eire. This was to pick up on all the EU business he would otherwise have lost if they’d remained centred in Britain. Which is, to me, another example of Tory hypocrisy.

Back in the 19th century Disraeli declared in his books Coningsby and Sybil that Britain was divided into two nations, the rich and poor, who had no knowledge or connection with each other, and demanded that this should be remedied. They’ve been talking about ‘One Nation’ Toryism every since. This is done by leaders like John Major, Michael Howard, David Cameron and so on, and is supposed to show that they are from that branch of the party that still has some paternalistic regard for those below them. The same people talk, or used to talk, about ‘caring Conservativism’. This is all the while doing what Tories always do – cut benefits, wages, and employment conditions and make it easier to sack people. All while manipulating the stats to persuade people that this is actually working and that they’re somehow better off.

Tony Benn in one of his books said something about the British ruling class regarding the lower orders as indeed like a foreign nation. Thinking about the Britannia Unchained mob, he had a point. This was the book written by a group of Tory MPs, including the smirking insult to decency, Priti Patel, that said that for Britain to compete in the global market, British workers must endure the same terrible conditions and wages as those elsewhere in the world, like India. A similar view was put forward by a former Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset. I’ve forgotten who he was, but I do remember his appearance on the local news. Introducing him, the interviewer stated that he came from a family of colonial administrators and governors. This strongly suggests to me that, deep down, he regarded British people of all colours in the same way his family had regarded the Africans and other indigenous peoples they governed.

And going back back to the 1920s, George Bernard Shaw attacked the Tory claim that they and the rich represented Britain and her interests in his book The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism by pointing out that the rich spent much of their time and money abroad, and preferred to invest in firms in the colonies using cheap indigenous labour. And this still remains absolutely true. One of the problems with Britain’s banking system is that its investment banks are geared to putting money into commonwealth rather than domestic industries.

At a fundamental level, Boris Johnson and the rest of the Tory elite really don’t have any connection to the Brits below them. It’s not because of their ancestry. In my view, they’re the same whether they’re completely British by descent. It’s because they are part, and see themselves as part of an international industrial and political class, who move their businesses and investments from one country to another without concern for how this affects their fellow countrymen. All the while trying to deceive the rest of us by yelling about their Britishness and British values.

Johnson and the Tories aren’t British patriots, except at the crude level of repeating nationalist slogan and anti-immigrant attitudes. Ordinary Brits are foreigners to them, like the low-waged workers in other countries they also seek to exploit.

Local Bristol MP Karen Smyth’s Reply to Concerns about Privatisation of Channel 4

January 10, 2022

Just before Christmas there was the news that the Conservatives, as part of their war on state broadcasting and any network that didn’t follow their line and serve as their propaganda outlets, were going to privatise Channel 4. I wrote to my local MP for south Bristol, Karen Smyth, and received the following kind reply.

‘Thank you for contacting me about proposals to change the ownership model of Channel 4.

I am also concerned about this proposal, and have written a joint letter to the Secretary of State, along with the three other Bristol Labour MPs, to ask that the Government urgently reconsider these proposals. Great British TV belongs in the UK, and I do not wish to see Channel 4 lost to the highest bidder.

For nearly four decades, Channel 4 has created an endless list of brilliant, progressive and world-leading programmes. I believe it is a British success story which was established to provide distinctive output and to drive forward growth in the independent TV production sector, and it has far exceeded these goals. In addition, its sharp, challenging, diverse and entertaining programming does very well in appealing to a wider and younger audience.

The Government has said that now is the time to strengthen public service broadcasters, and that the consultation is to ensure that Channel 4 has a viable and sustainable future. It argues that changes in advertising will put its funding under pressure, as Channel 4 is paid for by advertising, and that it needs to adapt because of competition from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.

I believe that this misses the point, as Channel 4 was created to be different, diverse and daring, and to champion the under-represented voices of this country. It does not need to spend millions of pounds to compete, it needs to do what it does best and create fundamentally British content that speaks to and represents British audiences.

In my view, these proposals would also be catastrophic for the creative industry, particularly here in Bristol, because of Channel 4’s investment in the sector and in regional television and production. The investment in regional creative industries – which Bristol fought hard to secure – is supporting local businesses and independent production companies and must not be jeopardised by an ill-considered change of ownership or model.

Thank you once again for contacting me about this issue. I can assure you I will continue to call for Channel 4 to be protected. 

Yours sincerely

Karin Smyth MP
Labour MP for Bristol South’

I am very glad indeed that she shares my concerns and wishes to oppose the privatisation. I think she’ll do it, as she does come across as a woman of principle and integrity, even if she is on the Labour right. But I don’t trust the bureaucracy or the inept, vindictive, factionalist leadership of Keef Stalin to do the same, however.

Scientist Talks about Implanted Chips for Covid Passports and Personal Details

December 23, 2021

This is another video from mad internet right-winger Alex Belfield. As I’ve said many times before, Belfield is extremely right-wing. He’s very firmly against immigration, especially Afghan refugees and the migrants trying to cross the Channel, whom he calls ‘dinghy divers’. He thinks the NHS can be improved by selling it off, while the opposite is true: the NHS is in the state it’s in because of piecemeal, continuing privatisation. His videos are full of rants about university educated ‘whippersnappers’ and ‘Guardian-reading, champagne-sipping, oyster-eating Nana Manchushi types’, a sneering reference to BBC newsreader Naga Manchetti. He’s also like to see the Beeb privatised. Unfortunately, after the gross bias the Beeb has shown towards Labour under Jeremy Corbyn and the way it has supported austerity, as shown by Barry and Savile Kushner’s Who Needs the Cuts?, part of my is inclined to agree with him about this. But this is genuinely alarming, and I think Belfield is right to put it up.

It shows a young man, presumably a scientist, with a Scandinavian accent talking about two computer chips he’s had implanted. One contains his Coronavirus information, the other his medical and personal details. These can be read by apps on mobile phones, although the personal information is strictly confidential and can’t be accessed by any phone, unlike the Coronavirus. Belfield is very strongly opposed to the lockdown and Covid passports. I think he’s put it up as a warning of the direction this policy could take. And I think he’s right in this very specific circumstance.

Years ago I read a book warning about the dangers of the emerging surveillance state. This included biometric electronic passports and identity cards containing personal information. I think Blair was planning to introduce them, but the idea was shelved. Obviously it’s been bubbling under these past few decades and whoever’s behind the idea is still keen to have it introduced. I think it’s a dangerous encroachment on civil liberty, made all the more so by the fact that this version would be implanted in your body. I’m aware that we chip our pets, but humans aren’t animals. This goes too far in giving the state access to people’s personal information implanted within their own bodies. It’s too much like some of the scenarios from dystopian science fiction.

And I might be a bit superstitious here, but it also reminds me of the end times prophecies of the Christian Fundamentalists. From the 1970s onwards they were particularly suspicious of bar codes, because they supposedly contained the test numbers ‘666’, the number of the Beast in the Book of Revelation. Just as those loyal to the Antichrist would have the number on their hand and forehead, so they claimed that people would be forced to carry barcodes there on their bodies. This isn’t quite that, and the inclusion of the numbers ‘666’ is an urban myth, but it’s close enough to make me feel a bit uncomfortable even though it’s probably nothing and definitely not a sign the End is Nigh.

Implanted identity chips are a terrible idea and are a further assault on personal liberty. It all looks reasonable, but I fear it would be the thin end of the wedge.

We Own Petition to House of Lords Against NHS Privatisation

November 25, 2021

I got this email from the anti-privatisation group We Own It. It’s a petition to the House of Lords requesting them to continue the opposition against the government’s Health and Social Care bill, which further privatises the NHS. I’ve signed it, and I am posting it here so that others can sign it if they wish.

“Dear David,

We’re disgusted but not surprised.

293 Conservative MPs voted late last night to pass the Health and Care Bill and open our NHS in England further to private companies. 

That is a massive betrayal of our country and of our NHS. 

But if they thought that this would be the end of our fight to save the NHS from them, they are badly mistaken. 

As the bill now goes to the House of Lords, we must ramp up and ask peers to protect our NHS. 

Sign the petition to demand the Lords protect our NHS

Given the government’s track record on the NHS, it wasn’t too surprising that Conservative MPs voted to pave the way for American style healthcare.

But you’ve already achieved quite a lot in this fight: 

  • We worked with the Daily Mirror to expose the Conservative MPs who have financial interests in private healthcare.
  • 50,000 emails were sent to MPs, forcing the government to offer a concession on private companies on NHS boards.
  • We spread the word about this government’s attempts to destroy the NHS in 30 local press outlets.
  • We’ve built a movement along with Keep Our NHS Public, Just Treatment, 999 Call For the NHS, and Your NHS Needs You. This will help us have more impact going forward.
  • 3 Conservative MPs voted against the bill because of your arguments. It’s not much, but it shows we can flip them.

You helped do all this and you should be very proud of what we’ve achieved.

And we can keep pushing for more wins as the bill goes to the House of Lords.

Please join our call to all peers to stand up for our NHS.

Add your voice to our call to the House of Lords

Despite the result, giving up just isn’t an option.

As an American doctor working in our NHS recently said:

  • Will this Bill help you see your GP sooner? NO
  • Will it improve your health in any meaningful way? NO
  • Will it reduce the time you have to wait in A&E? NO
  • Will it fix the broken social care system? NO
  • Will it hire and train doctors and nurses to address the staffing crisis? NO

This bill only affects the NHS in England, but whether you live in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you can be part of the fight against it.

Lives depend on us fighting this bill. The survival of our NHS for future generations depends on it. 

We will fight it in parliament, but even more importantly, we will fight it in our communities.

Now that the Bill is going to the House of Lords, we have a real opportunity to get wins. 

Add your voice to our demand that the House of Lords back our NHS now.

Tell the House of Lords to amend the Health and Care Bill!

To build back towards the NHS we need, we must make the NHS the default provider of services. We must make sure private companies don’t make decisions about our care.

Now let’s show the Lords that we mean it when we say PROTECT OUR NHS!

Thank you for every action you take to stand up for our health service.

Cat, Johnbosco, Zana, Alice and Matthew – the We Own It team”

Private Eye on Blair’s Privatisation of the Government Service Examining Disabled Claimants

November 1, 2021

And which, needless to say, subsequently led to the the private company awarded the contract finding severely disabled people ineligible for benefit and fit for work.

I found this very enlightening article in an issue of Private Eye from 21 years ago, for Friday, 19th May 2000. It describes how the Tories intended to privatise the Benefits Agency Medical Services, the part of the agency that examined disabled claimants to see if they qualified for benefits. In opposition, Blair and his chums had been against the scheme, but once they were in government that all changed. They were all in favour of it, the office was privatised and the contract awarded instead to Sema. This was despite the fact that the company had no qualified doctors. Sema then took on two other companies to help it with the work and engaged various New Labour politicos to lobby for it. Once it had the contract, it started declaring severely disabled people fit for work. And so was the pattern set for the subsequent reigns of Atos and Maximus.

The article, entitled ‘Cringe Benefits’, runs

It was a Tory idea to begin with: how to make more money out of the disabled for a big private company.

After a “study of options” about what to do with the rather expensive government system for examining disabled people to see if they were entitled to benefit, the Tory government concluded that contracting out to the private sector was “most likely to deliver the improvements sought”.

Tory ministers agreed and the publicly-owned Benefits Agency Medical Services was divided into three areas “to encourage competition in terms of bids”. The Tory government fell in the spring of 1997, to be replaced by Labour with a huge majority and secretary of state for social services, Harriet Harman, who had been eloquent in the condemnation of privatisation.

Ms Harman, however, was at once convinced of the case for privatising the testing of the disabled, and in February 1998 (in the interests of competition) she awarded the contracts for all three areas to one company, Sema.

It was a juicy contract too. A government memorandum at the time announced that the three contracts would cost the government £305m, a figure which the memo announced, “represented savings of £62m” compared with what the service used to cost the taxpayer.

One problem which soon became clear was that Sema had no medical experience whatsoever. The British Medical Association, disgusted by the company’s treatment of doctors and patients, complained officially that Sema executives “did not understand the complexities, having had no experience of employing doctors”. This obviously worried the company so much that when the five original bidders were invited to discuss the complexities of their new contract with the BMS, which represents most British doctors, two declined, including Sema.

If it didn’t have any doctors or medically qualified staff, Sema made sure it was well-stocked with “new” Labour lobbyists. It hired Westminster Strategy, which had a batch of such lobbyists on tap. Jo Moore, former Labour press officer; Mike Lee, who used to work for David Blunkett; and former chair of the Fabian Society and wanabee Labour candidate Mike Dauber. To clinch the business, Sema acquired the then employment minister Andrew Smith as a speaker at its glittering conferences.

Partly to make up for this lack of experience, Sema engaged two companies as sub-contractors to do the new work, Nestor Healthcare group and Nestor Disability Analysts. The board of the former was graced by a former Tory MP, Charles Goodison-Wickes, who quickly made way for the more acceptable Anne Parker, who chairs the Carers Association and is an examiner for the Child Support Agency. Nestor Healthcare has just branched into prisons, explaining in true “new” Labour tradition that “prisoner numbers are steadily growing”.

The performance of these Sema subsidiaries, and of privatisation in general, has recently been examined in detail by the House of Commons social services committee, whose shocking report has just been published. “Too often”, say the report, “the organisation fails to deliver an adequate service… at its worst it puts claimants through examinations which are painful and distressing and gives poor advice.”

Bizarre examples of the doctor’s hostility to the people they are examining are provided by the report. In one case a patient was described as healthy because she could sit up watching television for up to two hours. In fact this patient could only watch television lying down. In another case a patient’s dirty fingernails were submitted as evidence of his ability to work in the garden – whereas in fact he could not even wash himself.

The conclusion makes sad reading for the “new” Labour lobbyists and privatisers of past years. There has been no improvement whatever. “our inquiry has led us to conclude that, so far, the primary focus of Sema has been on operational efficiency to achieve value for money rather than the delivery of a quality service”.

How has Labour responded so far to these devastating allegations? It has handed over a confidential contract for running the Labour party’s own membership records to…. Sema. And Sema’s subsidiary has won a contract for the provision of an immigration centre for Group 4.’

And Starmer would have us all vote for him, because Tony Blair did such great things for the people of this country. Well, Blair was serious and better than the Tories at tackling poverty. But the privatisation of that part of the Benefits Agency has just led to 20 years and more of profiteering and rigged assessments in order to throw genuinely disabled people off benefits.

The process needs to be renationalised, and the Tories, Starmer and his coterie of New Labour apparatchiks kept well away from power.

Tories Pumping Sewage in Rivers: We Were Warned

October 26, 2021

One of the major stories this week has been that the Conservatives have voted to allow the water companies to dump raw sewage into our rivers and seas. This is, as Mike has pointed out, threatening to bring back cholera, and no doubt many other lethal Victorian diseases. Mike and the good peeps on Twitter have put up a list of the various Tory thugs, who passed this noxious motion, and the excuses have started already. Mike’s local MP, Fay Jones, was telling everyone that the amendment would cost the taxpayer £600 billion or so to replace the Victorian sewage infrastructure. But it wouldn’t. It would cost the government that, who might have to raise taxes as a result. But it shouldn’t be raised from them. The cost would have to be borne by the privatised water companies. I remember when the water companies were privatised under Thatcher the head of the local company down here in Bristol, Hooper, was all in favour and declared that it would allow them to raise more money for investment. So if any expense is involved, it should come from their profits, shareholder dividends and customers, not the British taxpayer. Jones also complained that people attacking the government’s actions over sewage obscured the brilliant work they were already doing reducing discharge from storm overflows. But there’s precious little evidence of this, either. So once again, the Tories are lying.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/10/25/get-your-cholera-jab-booked-mps-wont-stop-pumping-raw-sewage-into-our-waters/

This was after David Davies started crying that he was being abused and subjected to online hate, because Catrin Maby had asked him an awkward question about allowing untreated effluent into our watercourses. It’s deeply distasteful coming after the murder of David Amess, a murder that seems to be an act of premeditated Islamist terror rather than caused by online hate. So once again, we have the Tories wrecking peoples’ health but claiming they are somehow the innocent victims, while presenting precisely no evidence to support their assertion.

But as nasty as all this is, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

When Brexit was first being mooted critics warned that once Britain was out of the EU and their environmental regulations no longer applied, the Tories would allow this and other abuses to happen. It was even shown in a short-lived cartoon strip in Private Eye. This was ‘The Ukippers’, and featured a fiercely patriotic couple who believed that everything would be absolutely brilliant once we have left the EU. One edition showed the two celebrating the new, higher environmental standards we were promised after Brexit by running into the sea for a swim. The two were undeterred by the fact that the water was foul and brown, and filled with what Billy Connolly used to describe as ‘jobbies’. Despite the foul state of the water around them, the pair were still convinced that it was much cleaner than it had been under the EU. It’s an attitude I’m afraid will probably come true at some point, as Tory voters repeat the lie that somehow it’s all cleaner, which I’m sure that Boris and his cronies will tell at some point.

In fact the Tories have a history of allowing pollution into the water. It started in the 1980s the moment Thatcher – or was John Major? – decided to privatise it. I can remember reading articles in Private Eye, once again, about how the Tories were passing legislation to strip the National Rivers Authority of its powers to prosecute the newly privatised water companies for pollution. I’ve got a feeling similar legislation to reduce its powers even further has also been passed. And there have also been a series of scandals, also covered by Private Eye, in which various water companies were caught violating environmental regulations with the dumping of sewage or chemicals into rivers.

This latest attack on the British environment was predicted, because the Tories have been doing it for decades.

Email Campaign by We Own It Against Channel 4 Privatisation

October 20, 2021

I got this email yesterday from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS organisation We Own It about the government’s latest sell-off. They’re planning to privatise Channel 4. Their email explains that this is disastrous because Channel 4 are one of the few media outlets holding them to account. At the same time they have been instrumental in producing quality television, which is funded through the channel’s advertising revenue. The government’s proposed privatisation is such a terrible idea that even many Tories are protesting against it. To counter it, the organisation is asking people to write to their MPs using a form letter they have devised. Here’s the email:

“Dear David,

There is absolutely no reason to privatise Channel 4, but the government is planning to do it anyway.

You can take a quick, easy action today to stop them in their tracks.

Take action now

Why is this so important?

Channel 4 News is one of the few news programmes that really holds this government to account, on issues from the NHS to the climate crisis. In fact, that’s probably a big part of why the government wants to privatise it. 

(Remember when Boris Johnson failed to attend the Channel 4 leaders’ debate on the climate crisis, and they replaced him with a melting ice sculpture?)

If you want decent news coverage at the next general election, please take 2 minutes to email your MP, ESPECIALLY if they’re a Conservative.

Email your MP now

Privatising Channel 4 would be an incredibly destructive act that would damage the UK film and TV industry. The creation of Channel 4 is the reason why the independent sector in film and TV exists today.

This matters 

  • For the quality of programmes and films that get produced
  • For young people trying to enter the creative industry
  • For the UK’s reputation in the world

There is no problem that privatising Channel 4 is the solution for.

Channel 4 has a unique business model, making a profit from advertising that it reinvests in good programming and nurturing talent. Channel 4 now has offices in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol, so it helps with the ‘levelling up’ agenda, boosting investment and jobs all around the country. They also support local production companies and outreach programmes in Cardiff, Belfast, Bournemouth, Norwich, Wolverhampton, Preston, Doncaster, Corby and Leicester.

That’s why wherever you are in the UK, Channel 4 is a good thing for your area.

Take 2 minutes to take action now

Lots of Conservatives have come out against the proposed sale of Channel 4. Many celebrities, including very right wing ones, have too. This means we have a chance of persuading the government that privatisation is a bad idea.

As Kirstie Allsopp has said, the plan to privatise Channel 4 is incredibly destructive. “I am a fiscal conservative and I’m naturally conservative-leaning and I find [the sale of C4] to be a betrayal of conservatism. It’s bonkers…I stood outside St Pauls when Margaret Thatcher’s coffin went by, and she would be spinning in her grave if she knew what this government was intending to do. Because C4 produces money, it produces jobs, it fosters talent, it brings out the best in people, and it’s very British.”

If you have a Conservative MP, it’s so important that you take this action! Your MP is EXACTLY who we need to shift. You will see that the template email is aimed at appealing to MPs like yours. Please send the text as it is, to maximise the chances of doing that! Thank you.

If you don’t have a Conservative MP, your MP can still really help to raise this issue up the agenda.

I want to stop the Channel 4 sell off

Last time the government tried to privatise Channel 4 they failed – partly because of the campaign we were part of to stop them. 

Let’s win again this time around and protect this much loved, publicly owned asset.

Thank you so much.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Thank you so much for the incredible response to our Halloween action to protect our NHS from the Health and Care Bill! If you’ve let us know that you’d like to take action locally, we’re getting your action packs ready at the moment and we’ll be in contact with you via email. Get in touch if you want to get involved – there’s still time!”

I’ve supported their campaign, and duly sent a message to my MP because of the reasons they’ve laid out in their email. It’s not just the government that Channel 4’s held to account. They also gave Mark Regev a hard time when during the bombardment of Gaza. Regev tried to tell the British public that if they sent aid to Gaza through Israel, it would still get there. John Snow knew he was lying and told him he was. Which shows that Channel 4 has more backbone when it comes to tackling Israeli lies and atrocities than the rest of our craven media, or at least, they did then.

Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be an alternative to BBC 2. News was to be a particularly important part of its programming, and this has been consistently extremely good, even to Tories like former Mail columnist, now scribbling for the Times, Quentin Letts. The broadcaster was also going to offer programmes to minorities and groups not served by mainstream broadcasters. Hence when it started off it broadcast an adaptation of the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata, and a season of Indian films, All India Goldies. I also remember it having a news series of reports from Africa, fronted by Black reporters. It also helped launch a new generation of Black comedians with the series Desmond’s. And then there was the awesome Max Headroom. Unfortunately, the quality did decline in the 1990s as the programme chiefs made it more mainstream, though even then it did broadcast quality material like the American import, Fraser. And it does support the British film industry, or what remains of it. If you’ve seen a British film, or a British/Irish co-production in the past few years, chances are that it’s also been co-produced by Channel 4 films. Kirstie Allsopp is wrong about Margaret Thatcher not wanting it privatised. There were several times when the Conservative government tried to sell it off, or sold shares in it but it hasn’t been totally privatised.

Now it seems it will be. For the same reasons the government is trying to privatise the Beeb. Because both are obstacles to private TV stations that don’t have a public service commitment, and particularly because they’re obstacles to the grasping power of Rupert Murdoch.

I’ve supported this campaign and emailed my MP as requested because I don’t want the channel privatised. If you feel the same, please do so.

The Lotus Eaters Eviscerate Critical Race Theorist Defending Right of Black Mothers to Become Addicted

October 18, 2021

Long time readers of this blog will know very well how I feel about Sargon and the Lotus Eaters. They’re terrible right-wingers who idealise capitalism and stand four-square behind privatisation. They idealise the extreme laissez-faire, Manchester school economics that created massive poverty and deprivation in the 19th century. But there are also issues on which they have an excellent point. The madness of the transgender ideology is one, and Critical Race Theory is another. And in this video, they look at one of the very worst suggestions by one of the Theory’s advocates and ideologues. It’s from Dorothy E. Roberts, a woman of colour and professor of law, sociology and Africana at Pennsylvania University. It looks like Sargon has taken it from the seminal collection of papers by the Critical Race Theorists, which I think is simply called ‘Critical Race Theory’. And he’s deliberately chosen it because it is one of the worst, to show how terrible it all is. I’m no fan of CRT and am aware that there are plenty of people on the extreme anti-racist left who disagree with me. But I would hope we could all agree that Roberts’ paper is genuinely terrible. Because she seems to believe it should be acceptable for Black women to become addicted to drugs like heroin and cocaine while pregnant, and give birth to babies addicted to those substances. Because it’s racist and an infringement on the autonomy of Black women to do whatever they want with their bodies for the state to try to stop them.

Presumably is comes from a deeply defensive attitude towards the problem among the American Black poor. It looks like part of the argument is taken from pro-choice activists – that women should be able to do whatever they like with their bodies without government interference. It also seems to me that she may have started out simply resenting the right constantly criticising poor Blacks for such problems and then moved on to her currently extreme position.

But whatever she thinks, or wants to think, it’s a deeply immoral one. And one that runs against much previous Black activism.

Black activists of all persuasions have been extremely concerned with tackling the problem of drug addiction in their communities. Many activist groups take direct action against it. Way back in the 1990s there was a piece on TV which showed a Black crowd driving a drug dealer out of town. They marched on his house chanting, ‘Black man, respect yourself!’ And the dealer ran out of his house from an upstairs window. I got the impression that the Nation of Islam, despite being an anti-White racist space cult, are very effective at keeping drugs out of their communities. And some Black radicals saw drugs as as part of the degeneracy of White culture, a strong argument for racial separatism to benefit Blacks. I can remember reading a piece by one such Black activist in which he contemned the White man for drugs, prostitution and other forms of immorality. On this side of the Atlantic, in Christmas 1990/91 the Beeb screened a drama, Alive and Kicking, starring Lenny Henry and Robbie Coltrane, about the problem of drugs and gang culture in the Black community. This also dealt with Black women, who were addicts in pregnancy and who had consequently given birth to addicted babies. It was grim stuff, too grim for me, and I think we turned it off after five minutes.

This is a real, terrible issue. Mike when he was journalist in Bristol regularly went to talk to KWADS – Knowle West Against Drugs. Knowle West is a council estate in south Bristol which has more than its fair share of problems. It’s racially mixed, mostly White but with some Blacks and Asians. KWADS was formed by a group of mothers who decided they weren’t going to stand for the harm done to their loved ones and community by drugs any longer. And there are no doubt very many other groups like them, comprising people of every race and creed. I’ve heard terrible stories myself from people about the effects of heroin on people and families. Young men literally selling the clothes off their backs to pay for the habit, toddlers out of control because both parents are on the terrible stuff.

You bet the state has the right to try to stop people, whatever their colour, from taking addictive drugs and getting their unborn kids addicted to it.

Additionally, many Blacks in America and Britain believe that there is covert campaign of genocide against them. It’s because of the high mortality rate from crime and deprivation in poor Black communities. And drugs are seen as part of this. It’s believed that the government is deliberately smuggling drugs in order to get Blacks addicted and wipe them out. Like all conspiracy theories of that type, it’s nonsense but you can see how it can arise and gain credibility. Especially as the American intelligence agencies did make deals with foreign paramilitaries to ship drugs into America. The CIA did it with the Hmong hill tribes during the Vietnam War, smuggling the heroin they produced into America to finance their war with the Americans against the Communists. Then there was Iran-Contra under Reagan in the 1980s. As part of that nefarious conspiracy, the American intelligence agencies shipped cocaine produced by the Contras to help them finance their guerrilla war against the Sandinistas.

This was revealed by an American journo, who never worked again. And the news obviously caused massive upset in the Black community. There were public meetings and protests, if not riots about it in downtown Los Angeles for very obvious reasons.

And now it seems that some of the Critical Race Theorists don’t want the government to tackle the terrible problem drugs amongst Black Americans because it’s racist. Despite the considerable Black activism against drugs and suspicion that it’s being pushed by the same White supremacist state Roberts and co. despise.

Madness. Utter madness. It bears out the old saying that some ideas are so stupid only an academic would believe them.

I don’t know what else Roberts has written. She may have written some very good stuff that has genuinely benefited her community. But assuming Sargon hasn’t misrepresented it, this paper is vile, pernicious rubbish. It should have been thrown in the bin, rather than published, academic freedom or no.