Posts Tagged ‘Railways’

Megaphone Petition Against Government Plans to Allow the Hiring of Agency Strike Breakers

June 24, 2022

I’ve also received this email from Megaphone urging people to sign their petition about the government’s proposal to undermine the unions by allowing companies to hire agency staff to break the strike. I’ve signed it, as strikes, or the threat of strike action, is the major weapon for unions to protect the rights of their members and workers as a whole.

‘David —

This week has been huge for the trade union movement. The TUC Join a Union website is seeing record traffic, with visits this week up 800%. 

As RMT members stand up for their jobs, pay and our services, they are giving hope and confidence to millions of workers. The last few weeks has clearly shown that if you want a pay rise, a secure job and a decent life, you need to be in a union.

So what has the governments response to this been? To propose laws that would undermine the most powerful tactic working people have: strike action.

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, is proposing to change the law to allow companies to replace striking workers, with inexperienced agency workers. 

The government will try to sneak these changes through so people don’t notice, so we must get the word out far and wide. We will not let them undermine our right to strike.

Will you add your name to the petition to stop plans to undermine unions by allowing companies to hire temporary staff during strike action?

Sign the petition

We cannot let this happen.

Allowing agency staff to replace striking workers would undermine the right to strike and create genuine safety risks for the public and workers.

Please sign and share the petition now.

In Unity,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK

Email from the Megaphone Urging Support for the Railway Strike

June 21, 2022

I also got this email from the left-wing campaigning organisation the Megaphone urging people to write to their MPs making it plain they support the RMT and the railway strike. As the email points out it’s not just about the train drivers’ pay, but about all the other rail workers and opposing the devastating cuts to public services.

‘David,

It’s the biggest show of industrial power in a generation.

Rail unions are running three days of national strike action to put a stop to devastating cuts to services, staff and conditions proposed by company bosses on million-pound salaries.

When jobs are on the chopping block and livelihoods are at stake, union members stand together to defend each other.

And 50,000 rail workers from mechanics to depot workers, ticket officers and many more need our solidarity tomorrow:

In just a few hours, rail workers across the UK will take to the picket lines for the fight of their lives. Can you write to your MP and show you stand with them?

WRITE TO YOUR MP

We have the resources and the funding to build a world-class rail system in the UK.

But for two years, this government and the Transport Minister have chosen confrontation over negotiation.

They choose to bail out private companies, while workers in safety-critical jobs face the sack.

They choose to condemn rail unions, when train bosses make millions in profits and cut corners on pay.

They even want to ban the right to strike, removing our most powerful bargaining tool when we have no other means to act.

Everyone deserves better pay, jobs and services. And rail workers are standing up for our safety.

A win for rail workers this week is a win for all of us in the UK who believe in our collective power to organise, demonstrate and win a better future.

Defend our rail service and defend people’s jobs — email your MP and ask them to write to the Transport Minister today.

In solidarity with tomorrow’s strikers,

Anthony,

Megaphone UK’

I’ve had absolutely no problem writing to my local MP to say that I do, and I support not only the union’s strike, but the fundamental right to strike, which the Tories have always hated and always tried to curb and ban anyway they can.

Privatisation has been a disaster. The rail network needs to be taken back into public ownership and properly funded and maintained, without the profits being siphoned off into shareholder’s dividends and the bloated salaries of the management.

GB News Platforming Reform Party’s Attack on NHS

February 22, 2022

Yesterday I put up a piece about a couple of videos attacking the NHS and preparing for its privatisation from GB News, featuring Nana Akua and Calvin Robinson. GB News is, you will remember, the right-wing alternative to the ‘wet and woke’ BBC. The channel has had a troubled history. It’s main personality was supposed to be Andrew Neil, formerly of the Beeb, and chair of the company that owns the increasingly Alt Right Spectator. That’s the Tory magazine that publishes Taki and his rants against the Jews and praising the Greek neo-Nazi outfit, Golden Dawn, as just good, patriotic Greek boys. Well, I’m sure there are any number of good patriotic Greek boys, who, unlike the Golden Dawn, don’t go around beating up immigrants and murdering left-wing journalists. Neil, however, departed for pastures new, and has been replaced by Nigel Farage as the broadcaster’s leading personality. This has improved ratings in that many more people are watching Farage. They aren’t, however, staying to watch the broadcaster’s other videos or programmes. But at least the production quality has improved so that it doesn’t look like they’re filming in a darkened shipping container.

After Akua and Robinson had done their bit pushing Tory falsehoods, along came the deputy leader of Laurence Fox’s Reform Party. Fox set it up as a response to what he considers to be the woke attack on British culture and history, and it’s been duly criticised because of this. In the video, Fox’s deputy began by criticising the health service for spending £49,000 painting various crossings on its premises in the trans colours. Now I have to say that I don’t think that’s the best use of funding myself, but all the government services including the police are under pressure to show they’re inclusive and welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. Hence there have been police cars painted in the gay flag, accompanied by gay police officers, and even what looked like a cop in a gay bumblebee outfit as part of this public relations exercise. These were criticised by the right and YouTubers like Belfield, but the cops’ reasons for staging these campaigns are entirely understandable. Even after the decriminalisation of homosexuality c. 1968, public prejudice against gays was very high and many policemen were violently prejudiced. There were ironic jokes at the police’s expense in the ’80s by Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones about police beating up gay men. There’s also a clip from the 1970s of a senior police officer, who states quite openly that he tries to arrest gay men at every chance he can get. In the 1980s there was James Anderton, the head of Manchester police, who provoked widespread outrage when he described gay people as depraved and said that AIDS was the Almighty’s judgement on them. Other organisations that have tried to reassure the gay community that they are perfectly welcome to use their services included the railways with the gay train. This was painted in the gay colours, and crewed by gays. I don’t know how many ordinary gay people were impressed by this display. I read comments by some gay people, who felt uneasy about it. They feared that what could start out as a positive statement could easily become negative through the special treatment and segregation of gays. Other gays have also commented on various vlogs that they now find the Pride marches somewhat ominous and intimidating, now that the tolerance of homosexuality and gay people is now an official policy and that the Pride marches come with sponsorship and endorsements from the big corporations. What once was genuinely radical and countercultural has now become mainstream and co-opted by the political and corporate establishment. But to come back to my main point, the NHS is merely one of a number of institutions and businesses, who feel that they have to make a gesture to reassure marginalised sections of the community.

And then came the slide. The Deputy Reformpartiefuhrer then moved on to claim that the NHS was being mismanaged. Now I agree, but for very different reasons than the Reform party bloke. There is waste in the NHS, but it’s due to the increased bureaucracy that has come with a quarter century and more of Thatcherite privatisation. The private healthcare companies, who’ve been given NHS contracts aren’t more efficient than the NHS. Indeed, in many instances they are less so – private hospitals are smaller. And administration costs have risen so that they’re now approaching the levels of the American private healthcare system of 24 per cent. The health service also receives far less funding than that of other companies, including America. But the Tories and their press are still lying to us about how it’s wasteful, inefficient and so needs more privatisation and less funding. And the Reform party, as a party of the right, are pushing that message.

Be careful, then, about Fox’s crew. They’re trying to attract followers with their opposition to ‘woke’ policies, but behind it comes the usual Tory demands and ideas. These will result in the privatisation of the NHS, with worse service, poorer health and the threat of a complete absence of care for those unable to pay.

This is what the Reform Party and GB News stand for, whatever their social conservative message. Don’t be taken in.

Starmer and Reeves Walk Up And Down on the Earth Making Promises – But Can You Trust Them?

January 21, 2022

Since the furore broke over Johnson and his flagrant disregard for the rules everyone else has to abide by with his scummy parties, the politicos have on TV to promote themselves. I think the Conservatives were on earlier in the week to try and present themselves as caring, efficient and concerned about the British public, rather than the gang of liars, profiteers and entitled scumbags. Then it was Labour’s turn the other night. I caught it, but fortunately it didn’t last long, and thanks to finding some great stuff on YouTube, I was soon over it. In the Book of Job in the Bible, Satan is described as walking up and down on the Earth, looking for people to torment and tempt. He wasn’t present in the film, at least not physically. Instead we had Rachel Reeves and Stalin walking about Britain, meeting and greeting ordinary people. Yes, those two. It shows what a state the Labour party is now in: Labour’s Thatcherite hard right. They were promising to raise people out of poverty and introduce reforms that would end VAT on electricity bills and so cut it by £200, and there would be help for people unable to pay.

It sounds good, but it’s far less than what Corbyn was offering. He wanted to have the electricity companies nationalised, or part of the industry nationalised, along with water and the railways. Because this is what these utilities need, and the majority of the British public want. It represents a chance to get real investment into them – privatisation hasn’t worked. And it would have allowed the government to cut people’s bills. But that, and Corbyn’s promises to restore the welfare state, union power, give the proles real rights at work and renationalise and properly fund the NHS upset the Blairites. So they went and joined the Israel lobby in smearing this profoundly anti-racist man of principle as an anti-Semite. Just as they did to his supporters, also very largely and vocally anti-racist themselves. And as I keep pointing out again and again, many of them were proud, secular and Torah observant Jews, who had suffered real anti-Semitic abuse and assault.

All Starmer has offered during his leadership of the Labour party is just one lie after another. He promised to keep Labour’s election policies, then ditched them as soon as he could. When the subject of nationalisation came up again, with a kind of endorsement from Ed Miliband, he declared that Labour wouldn’t. And every pledge he made to reform the welfare system so that the disabled, the long-term sick and the unemployed has either been scrapped, watered down or else he’s hummed and hahhed and told everyone they’d review. He has said that he will do anything to get his bum in No. 10. In my opinion, he has no morals, no principles except a powerful sense of his own entitlement. Psychologically, he’s kindred to Johnson and the former orange clown running the US down to the ground, Donald Trump.

In the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, the principle of evil, opposed to the benevolent God Ahura Mazda, is Ahriman. One of Ahriman’s demons is Druj, which means ‘Lie’, In the Persian medieval classic, the Shah Nameh, the world’s corruption begins when Druj, disguising himself, begins to corrupt one of the first Persian emperors, worming his way into his confidence as an advisor. This culminates in him kissing the emperor on his shoulders. Two serpents spring up where he kissed him, which then demand to be fed on human brains. Nothing so dramatic has happened to Boris or Keef, but I see no reason to trust anything whatsoever either Keef or Rachel Reeves say. Like Johnson, he lies through his teeth. This country will only ever have a real future for ordinary people when we get rid of him and the Tories.

And unfortunately, after the purges, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Right-Wing Belfield Rants about Foreigners Owning British Airlines, But Blame Thatcher for Privatising It

October 11, 2021

Alex Belfield got himself well and truly worked up today, and delivered an angry rant about British Airlines. This is because it has, in the name of diversity, decided not to address their customers as ‘ladies and gentlemen’. I have to say I’m not impressed either by this harmless, customary address being ditched in the name of what just looks to me like modish virtue signaling. I think the decision has been taken at BA because, a month or so ago, a person of indeterminate gender got upset and wrote an angry letter to one of the regional train companies because their station announcements included the phrase. This individual thought it excluded non-binary peeps like themselves. This individual also seems to be have been the LGBTQ+ officer for their local Labour party, so I think their letter was a piece of social activism rather than simply a piece of genuine personal affront. Or so it was painted by the right-wing Lotus Eaters in their determination to find anything to discredit the Labour party.

But Belfield’s rant then went on to include the terrible, overpriced food on the airline, and complained that it was no longer really British, as it had been bought by foreigners. Well yes, it has, along with all the other utilities that were privatised by Maggie Thatcher. They should have been kept in government – in our – ownership. But I suppose it’s too much for him to grasp that, as he seems to think that Thatcher was patriotic. His rant shows that clip of Thatcher wrapping a paper hanky round a model of a British Airlines plane’s tailfin to cover up the weird ethnic design that the company had decided to use to replace the union flag following the 1981/2 riots. Now I actually think Thatcher was right about the flag. It was British Airlines, and I see absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about in the British flag as our centuries old national symbol.

But however patriotic Thatcher was, or claimed to be, her privatisations have been ruinous and have harmed Britain ever since. In fact, I’d say that there were firmly unpatriotic.

But you could never get a staunch Tory like Belfield to admit that.

Oh yes, and Belfield begins his rant by saying that he wanted to be a pilot when he was young, but was only a kid from a pit village and never got the necessary school qualifications. One of the lads I grew up with is a pilot in America. He comes from an ordinary home and went to the local comprehensive. But it is difficult, as the British pilot training and exams including some very hard mathematics that other countries don’t. Maths that I’ve been told are only in there to make it hard for poorer students to pass as opposed to the rich.

If this is true, it’s pure class discrimination which really needs to go, never mind silly worries about the correct, gender neutral greeting for passengers.

Loach’s Documentary Shows Why We Still Need the Attlee Government

October 4, 2021

The Spirit of ’45, director Ken Loach, Dogwoof, Sixteenfly Limited, British Film Institute & Channel 4.. Running time 92 minutes, with 420 minutes of extras, 2013 release.

This superb documentary provides great evidence for one of the real reasons Keef Stalin has purged Loach from the Labour party. Quite apart from being a staunch critic of Israeli barbarism, Loach is a socialist whose films show the misery, poverty and degradation inflicted by capitalism. This documentary shows not just the great achievements of Attlee’s reforming government of 1945, but why we still need these reforms today. Why, indeed, we do need to turn the clock back against the Thatcherites to 1945 again. And as an ardent Thatcherite, that’s something Keef and his cohorts really can’t tolerate.

The film consists of interviews with ordinary men and women, former workers in the affected industries, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals as well as academics, along with interviews and footage from the period. These include tales of real struggle and hardship, often moving, and sometimes inspiring anger. It begins by describing the horrendous conditions people lived in before the foundation of the welfare state. One man describes how, as a child, he and his four siblings lived in a slum crawling with vermin. They had to sleep in the same bed, infested with lice and fleas. This is accompanied by footage showing a hand turning over blankets in a bed in which just about every inch was alive with such parasites. And the man recalls that after a night of this, he was beaten at school for having dirty knees.

The film states that the welfare state and its founders were determined not to repeat the situation following the First World War, where demobbed troops returned to unemployment, depression and poverty. The film is divided into sections for each part of the economy that was nationalised – coal, the Railways, the NHS, housing and electricity.

There had been demands for the nationalisation of the coal industry for decades. It was divided between various coal companies, some of which were extremely small. These companies were individually too poor to pay the miners a decent, living wage. Former miners describe how hard and dangerous conditions were. Miners were paid according to the amount of coal they hewed. They weren’t paid for putting up the props that stopped the mine shafts collapsing. As a result, not enough props were put up and terrible accidents followed. One man recalled seeing one his workmates killed in just such a rock fall because not enough props were put up. Nationalisation resulted in much better conditions, but disappointed many of the miners. They were hoping for something like workers’ control. Instead the same people were left in charge, including one manager, who was appointed leader of the industry, who had written extensively against nationalisation. Naturally this left many miners angry and disappointed.

Medicine before the NHS for working people was poor and expensive. Some workers were covered by insurance schemes for their industries, allowing them to see panel doctors. This did not, however, according to the film, cover their families. I’m not sure about this, because my mother remembers cases in Bristol where family members were seen by the panel doctor, but this may have been the exception. You had to pay to see a doctor, and they weren’t cheap. Very low paid workers, like farm labourers, were paid six shillings a week, and seeing the doctor could cost one of those. Patients were very often in debt to their doctors, who employed debt collectors. Death from disease was common. One man angrily recalls how he became an atheist after the death of his mother, who died following complications in childbirth because she could not afford proper treatment or an abortion. One former GP tells how he went round to call on a family of his patients the very day after the foundation of the NHS. When he inquired after the boy he’d been treating, the mother informed him he was well. But the man could hear coughing, and so continued to ask. The mother replied that the coughing was his brother, who was recovering because they’d given him half of the bottle of cough medicine he’d given to the other boy. When the doctor said he could still hear coughing, the woman replied that it was her mother. When the doctor offered to treat her, she refused, saying they couldn’t afford him. The doctor replied that this morning they could. This part of the documentary includes comments from Jacky Davis, a great campaigner for the NHS and one of the editors, with Ray Tallis, of the excellent book, NHS – SOS.

The railways before nationalisation were in a comparable state as the mines. The rail network was divided between different companies, who also owned their own track. As a result, services by the different railway companies frequently interfered with each other. One old railways worker recalls how one train going to Exeter was held up for half an hour by a train from another company. And the system was incredibly bureaucratic. The first thing to go at nationalisation was the clearing house. This was a massive office of 50+ clerks just passing chits to each other as the various companies billed each other for the use of their services. I suspect something similar goes on in the privatised railways when you buy a ticket that involves more than one network.

The film also describes the massive improvement in housing that came with the government’s programme of building council houses. There were queues to get into these, with many workers amazed that they would live in such massively improved conditions.

The film also covers the nationalisation of the electricity network, with an historian stating that it was generally agreed that it made more sense to nationalise it and amalgamate it into one company than leave it in the hands of a multitude of competing small companies.

The film moves on to the destruction of the welfare state following the election of St. Margaret of Monetarism. All of these have been disastrous. The spit up of the railways led to a series of terrible train disasters, with the companies involved refusing to accept responsibility and blaming each other. It was so appalling that the track had to be renationalised in 2002.

As for the NHS, service is becoming worse as the government has privatised more of it. NHS workers and ordinary folk made it very clear how much they hate its privatisation. One gentleman says that those who want to see it sold off should be put in a bottomless boat, sent out in the North Sea, and told to swim back. I quite agree. Jacky Davis makes it clear that this isn’t making the service cheaper or more economical. Under the NHS, administration costs were 6 per cent. A little while ago they were 12 per cent. Now they’re heading up to American levels of 18-24 per cent.

The NHS has become less efficient because of four decades of Thatcherite privatisation, all for the profit of private healthcare companies.

The film is a superb piece of social history and documentation, directed by one of the masters of British cinema. And makes a very strong case for socialism. Attlee and his government weren’t without their faults, but they created the modern welfare state following the Beveridge Report. This shaped British society for more than three decades afterwards, and which still demands our support against the attacks of the likes of Blair, Starmer and Boris.

Is Keef Stalin Planning to Lose the Next Election So Streeting Can Be the New Blair?

October 1, 2021

It’s a horrifying thought, but that’s what this fortnight’s edition of Private Eye suggests in their piece, ‘Project Keir’ in the ‘H.P. Sauce’ column on page 14. They speculate that Starmer is deliberately planning to lose the next election so that he will be replaced by Wes Streeting, who will win the following election. He seems himself as the new Neil Kinnock, who lost his election but prepared the way for the success of Tony Blair. The article runs

“Don’t let anyone tell you that this is a two-term project,” shadow minister Wes Streeting told moderate group Labour First at his party’s conference last weekend. This phrase is familiar to the party’s right: a two-term project would mean Keir Starmer losing the next election but his sacrifice clearing the way for a properly moderate leader.

It was an acknowledgment that many on Labour’s right – including some in Starmer’s office – believe the leader’s focus on fixing Labour’s internal selections might not impress voters but will clear out the hard left, subdue the soft left and prepare the ground for the only way they believe Labour can win: Starmer must be a “Kinnock”, who loses elections but clears the way for a Blair figure who ultimately wins.” The rest of the article describes how Keef and his minions are already in talks with various big businesses. Well, Starmer is a Blairite, and Blair became notorious for granting favours to big corporations, including seats in government, in return for donations.

Before I start critiquing the article proper, look at the bias in its writing. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are ‘hard left’. Labour First is ‘moderate’. Not so. Jeremy Corbyn is actually very traditional Old Labour: a mixed economy, strong welfare state, properly nationalised and funded NHS, and strong trade unions. He wants the nationalisation of the utilities and the railways, which was the social democratic consensus, accepted by both Labour and the Tories, from 1945 to 1979 and the election of Maggie Thatcher. This is far less than the demands for further nationalisation from the real communist and Trotskyite left, who sneer at reformist socialist politicians like Corbyn. And Labour First is not remotely moderate. It’s far right in the same way Blair was far right. Blair was further right than the Tories in many issues. The Conservatives had tried taking schools out of the control of the LEAs, the precursors of Blair’s academies, found that they didn’t work and duly binned them. Blair took the idea out of the bin and then expanded it. He also went much further in privatising the NHS than the Tories dared. At the 2008 elections Cameron pretended to be further left than Blair in order to win. I think this lost him votes from traditional hard right Tory voters, but unfortunately it did give him the keys to 10 Downing Street. And we’ve been suffering ever since.

This scheme all depends on several factors, one of which is whether Starmer truly realises he’s going to lose the next election. He certainly doesn’t seem like it. Despite losing a whole series of local authorities and constituencies, including the north, he seems determined to present what few seats Labour did retain up north as stunning victories. In fact in many of them Labour only managed to scrape in. Now I think Starmer really is hoping that Tory voters, along with big business and the media, will turn to him, or his version of the Labour party, when they get sick of the Tories and their incompetence. But that’s a dangerous assumption. Blair was able to win over Murdoch and the majority of the press, but the Daily Mail held on to its wretched principles and carried on supporting the Tories. There is no guarantee that the British public, media and business will embrace Streeting if Labour does lose the next election and Starmer makes way for him. And even if Streeting did win the following election, it would probably be by a smaller number of people voting than actually voted in the 2019 election. At the 2017 election, Corbyn lost with a higher number of people voting for him than Blair did when he won. It’s been forgotten that when Blair was in power, people drifted away from Labour en masse and that there was a general feeling of alienation and disenfranchisement. People didn’t feel the parties represented them and some of them stopped voting. This will happen again, even if Streeting or someone like him wins.

And its dangerous, because when people feel alienated from supposedly democratic parties, they turn to the real extremists, the Communists or Fascists. Both of those are pretty much dead at the moment, despite the screams about Corbyn, but they could well revive, if under a less extreme guise, like UKIP or the Brexit party at the elections a few years ago.

My own guess is that such a plan would destroy Labour, at least as a mass party. Starmer treats the rank and file members with contempt, and as result they’re leaving. Without their membership subscriptions, Labour is facing bankruptcy. Starmer has also driven away the baker’s union, BFAWU, so he went get any money from that union either. If he drives further unions away, which he well might, that could provoke an even worse financial crisis. He needs those donations from big business, but there’s no guarantee he’ll get them.

Starmer’s slowly turning Labour into a minor party with little funding and small membership, also so he can appeal to business and hopefully get his rear end, or Streetings into power. It’s a truly risky strategy, and could kill the party long before either he or Streeting get anywhere close.

And as they’re doing this, they’re damaging democracy by ignoring the electorate and its wishes in favour of big business. A few years ago a report by Harvard University concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy because of this. Instead it was a plutocracy or something like it, government by the rich.

Which is exactly what Starmer will bring in here.

We Own It: Hacks Waking Up to Failure of Privatisation

September 30, 2021

I’ve said many times on this blog that Thatcher’s privatisation of the utilities and the railways has been an utter, complete, unmitigated failure and that these services should be renationalised. I am very pleased to say that a number of mainstream hacks are finally waking up to this. I got this email from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS group ‘We Own It’ reporting that journos on the Times, Torygraph, Herald and the Guardian have written pieces criticising privatisation. They also describe how various rail companies have had to be renationalised, and that nationalisation is part of Labour’s Green New Deal and Shadow Transport Secret Jim McMahon supports the renationalisation of the railways. It also castigates Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves for opposing nationalisation on ideological grounds, even when they claim the complete opposite.

“Dear David,

People are waking up to the fact that privatisation has failed the UK for nearly 40 years.

In the Times, Jon Yeomans talks about Thatcher’s sell offs, saying “More than 30 years later, Britain lives with the consequences of that 1980s revolution. From buses to trains to energy, there are signs that the wheels may be coming off.”

In the Herald, Lesley Riddoch asks on behalf of frustrated Scots “Is there any way to escape privatised Britain other than independence?”

Scotland is bringing its railway into public ownership.

Wales is bringing its railway into public ownership.

The East Coast line was brought into public ownership in 2018 (it’s now run by the government’s operator of last resort).

The Northern franchise was brought into public ownership in 2020.

And this week Southeastern, after defrauding the government of £25 million, has also been brought into public hands.

As the Telegraph (yes, the Telegraph) says “the Southeastern debacle exposes the failure of Britain’s rail privatisation”.

It’s not just rail – with Covid, the bus ‘market’ (never much of a market) is collapsing.

The Guardian comments on the proposed merger of Stagecoach and National Express, saying “Passengers, who have seen rail fares rocket and local bus services wither, may also hope this signals the end of a chapter when a few could profit so enormously from an essential public service.”

Meanwhile Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, who has committed to re-regulating the buses there (a victory of our campaign!) comments about himself and Mayors Tracy Brabin and Dan Jarvis “Between us we are rolling back the 1980s, we are overturning the Thatcher legacy.”

At the Labour party conference, shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband talked about the Green New Deal, committing to “a green Britain where public and alternative models of ownership play their proper role in making the transition affordable, secure and fair.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon confirmed his support for public ownership of rail and buses.

And Labour delegates voted for a Green New Deal, including public ownership of transport and energy, with speech after inspiring speech explaining why this is needed.

Despite all of this, Keir Starmer (who hasn’t responded yet to our open letter) and his shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have said they don’t support nationalising the energy supply companies. They’ve said they don’t want to be “ideological” about it.

But the truth, as Cat writes in the Guardian today, is that privatisation is an extreme ideological experiment that has failed us all for decades, and people have had enough of it.

When the Times, the Telegraph, the Herald and the Guardian are questioning privatisation, when more and more of our railway is being brought into public ownership, when Mayors are re-regulating buses, and when the energy market is in crisis – there’s a shift happening.

On moral and on economic grounds, privatisation just isn’t making sense anymore.

Don’t tell Sid

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

PS Who’s Sid? In 1986, when Thatcher sold off British Gas, the company was floated on the stock market, accompanied by the famous ‘Tell Sid’ advertising campaign.

This shows precisely how out of touch, far right and ideological Starmer and Reeves are. They’re still pushing Thatcherism when it’s increasingly obvious that Thatcherism is dying. As for the Tory privatisation slogan in the 1980s, this was ‘If you see Sid, tell him’. It was a hidden gibe at Sidney Webb and the Fabians, who advocated the nationalisation of the utilities. Now it seems Sid is may just have the last laugh yet.

If you see Maggie, tell her: privatisation is disaster.

Tories Planning Possible Temporary Nationalisation of Energy and Railways

September 28, 2021

This is very, very interesting. After Conference voted yesterday for the nationalisation of the electricity companies, it seems that the Tories are considering a similar measure, if only as a temporary solution to the energy crisis. Johnson’s government is considering intervening to ensure that no customers are cut off as firms fail. According to the Independent, the business secretary, Kwesi Kwarteng, is not only holding talks with the energy companies and has spoken to Ofgem, the energy regulator, he has also indicated that he is prepared to appoint a temporary administrator for firms the government may take into public ownership as a temporary solution to the crisis.

And the government has also taken over Southeast Trains. Well, the government has been briefly taking over failing train companies for the past ten years or so, because John Major’s privatisation of British Rail is a far greater disaster than anything served up in the former company’s cafes. This latest nationalisation is also going to be temporary, but it shows how much of a failure privatisation has been. The only solution is to nationalisation the utilities permanently.

But Starmer’s Labour leadership really doesn’t want to do that. Mike’s article quotes a tweet by the mighty Aaron Bastani parodying a statement by the ghastly Rachel Reeves as saying that it’s not the right time for nationalisation and that the demand for it is ‘ideological’. As Bastani says, it’s precisely the moment. And as Mike says, it shows that Labour is now more right-wing than the Tories. He goes on to say:

‘Reeves made herself and her boss sound like idiots – which, of course, they are.

Their protestations – her yesterday (September 27), him on Sunday (September 26) – weren’t pragmatic, no matter how often they tried to shoehorn that word into their comments.

They were ideological – exactly what Reeves and Starmer were trying to deny.

But it’s a stupid ideology.

Starmer’s entire policy is: butter up the business bosses. He is convinced that if he sucks up to the fat cats, they’ll support him into government after the next election. He is wrong for a very obvious reason.

Business leaders really are pragmatic. They can see that Brexit has created serious issues for the energy firms, for fuel supply and in other areas due to knock-on effects, and they acknowledge that their firms would be better-off under government control for the duration of the problem.

In other words: by lurching leftwards towards privatisation, Boris Johnson has done the right thing.

And where does this leave Starmer (and Reeves)?

Absolutely nowhere. Not only are they out of touch with party members; they are out of touch with the entire United Kingdom.

Absolutely. I remember talking to a co-worker years ago when the Financial Times was still a Liberal paper. It had run an article which definitely supported a publicly-owned NHS. I found this odd considering that the FT is the paper of financial capitalism, and so I’d expected it to be in favour of privatisation. My co-worker explained to me that the firms supplying the NHS would not want the Health Service broken up, because dealing with a single, large company is much easier for them.

There was absolutely no opposition from the Tories when Labour nationalised electricity in 1945, or indeed any of the utilities, because they knew very well it made absolute, perfect sense. It was nonsense having Britain’s electricity produced by a number of separate, competing companies.

And Ken Loach’s magnificent documentary, The Spirit of 45, shows that the same problems existed when the railways were split up into different companies. The trains running from the different companies along their separately owned pieces of track frequently intersected with each other and caused delays. And the first thing that was got rid of after nationalisation was the massive clearing house which consisted of well over a hundred different clerks passing chits to each other. These were representatives of the different railway companies passing notes billing each other for the use of their different pieces of track and train services.

Privatisation is a mess. It doesn’t work, and has been repeatedly shown not to work.

But Starmer and the appalling Reeves don’t want to admit that. Part of this comes from the fear they’ll get from the right-wing press, with whom Starmer is desperate to ingratiate himself. And much of it is ideological. I can remember a piece by Brian Gould in one of the left-wing broadsheets back in the 1980s talking about how he tried to argue with the-then Labour leadership that free market economics was not the solution. But it was pointless. Their eyes were all aglow with the light of the religious convert. Starmer is the heir to Blair and Thatcher.

And Thatcher’s privatisations were also considered bonkers at the time. I’ve been told that the orthodox view taken by economists in the 1970s was that, while free trade and private industry worked perfectly well in many sectors, it could not be applied to the utilities. Thatcher’s privatisations were a shocking divergence from mainstream economics, whatever nonsense the Tory press and media talked boosting them. As for Monetarism, Robin Ramsay, the main man behind conspiracies ‘zine Lobster, has said that when he studied economics in the 1970s Monetarism was considered so ludicrous and stupid lecturers hardly considered it worth mentioning. Monetarism noisily died the death in the 1990s, with even the Daily Heil publishing articles arguing it was a failure.

Starmer and Reeves are well out of touch. Now is exactly the right time to demand nationalisation.

But they’re too blinded by Thatcherism to realise this. Or perhaps it would be better to use a phrase of the Iron Lady’s about her opponents: they’re ‘frit’.

Thatcherism is a failure. It’s pure Zombie economics. It should have died years ago, but it’s kept stumbling on by right-wing politicians like the Tories and Starmer out of a mixture of ideology and desire to benefit the rich rather than the working class.

Brexit Britain’s Collapse also Reveals Failure of Free Market Capitalism

September 26, 2021

I wonder sometimes if the Communists and Trotskyites didn’t throw in the towel too soon. They were always looking for the collapse of capitalism, and while that didn’t happen and probably won’t, they would have realised that Thatcherism, at least, isn’t working and made real efforts to make the British public realise it. Communism collapsed with the velvet revolution in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the countries of the former Soviet bloc threw off their chains and embraced democracy and free market capitalism. Francis Fukuyama declared that it was ‘the end of history’. Liberalism in the broad sense of the mixture of liberal democracy and capitalism, had seen off its rivals and would now reign supreme and unchallenged as the global ideology bringing peace, freedom – both political and economic – and prosperity to everyone.

But it hasn’t worked out like that.

Thatcher’s privatisation of the public utilities here in Britain haven’t brought the necessary investment these sectors needed. As Ken Loach’s superb documentary, The Spirit of 45, makes very clear, the power, water and railway industries are natural monopolies that need national planning and support. This has been particularly shown time and again in the management of the railways. Major’s privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s and its breakup into separate companies resulted in a spate of horrendous train crashes. Insult was added to injury by the rail companies passing the buck and accusing each other of responsibility for the disasters. As a result, the company owning the railway network itself, Railtrack, had to be renationalised in 2002. Privatisation did not work. And it has continued to fail with the private railways companies. Several have had to be taken back into state administration after providing poor service. However, this has always been excused as a temporary measure and the government has insisted on finding some other private company to run those services afterwards. After a series of such failures, this strategy now looks more than a little desperate. It’s an attempt to fend off the obvious: that private enterprise isn’t providing a proper, decent rail service and the only way to run it properly is to renationalise it.

It is very much the same with the government’s part-privatisation of Britain’s schools. Declining standards in state schools led Thatcher to experiment with privately-run schools outside the control of Local Education Authorities. These were then called ‘city academies’. They were another failure, and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, was forced to wind them up quietly. Unfortunately, Tony Blair thought it was a wizard idea and it became a major part of New Labour education policy. Simply called ‘academies’, these schools would be run by private companies. Some of these would specialise in particularly subjects, such as Maths and science. Expertise from private industry would ensure that standards would be high, and they would provide a powerful incentive through their competition for the remaining state schools to improve their performance. Except that didn’t happen either. The academies don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools once the massive difference in funding is taken into account. An academy may receive tens of millions of funding compared to a fraction of million that the Local Education Authority receives to spend on all the schools it runs. Furthermore, many of the academies have only been able to maintain their high standards through being highly selective about their intakes. Pupils that may not reach the marks demanded by the schools, including those with behavioural problems or who come from poorer families, are often excluded and expelled. Educational performance and standards in many academies has been so abysmal that the chains managing them have collapsed and the schools once again taken into public administration. But private enterprise under the Tories cannot be allowed to fail, and so we had the grim spectacle a few years ago of Nicky Morgan, the Tory education secretary, repeatedly not answering the questions on the Andrew Marr show why the government was pushing ahead with turning schools into academies when just a little while ago 25 academies had had to be taken over by the government again.

Now, thanks to a mixture of Brexit and global problems elsewhere, the gas industry is in crisis. There are shortages of gas, a number of the smaller companies have already collapsed and customers are being faced with sharp price rises. Novara Media have even said that the government has admitted that if there are severe problems with the major gas suppliers, then they will have to be nationalised.

Gas, like electricity, should never have been privatised in the first place. When it was initially privatised, the company was not split up into separate, competing companies and so it was able to dominate the market as a private monopoly. Now some of those companies are suffering because they are unable to cope with free market conditions. This says to me very much that Jeremy Corbyn was right – that the public utilities need to be publicly owned and rationally managed as part of an integrated system. This is another point that Ken Loach’s documentary makes very well.

And Brexit has created further problems. The establishment of a customs border with Eire overturns one of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and so threatens to return Northern Ireland to sectarian violence and chaos. There is a shortage of CO2 as a result of which some foods and other goods may suffer shortages. And there may be further shortages, including petrol and other fuels, because Brexit has also resulted in fewer haulage drivers. Some are even now predicting a new ‘Winter of Discontent’, like that in 1979 that resulted in the defeat of the-then Labour government and the election of Maggie Thatcher.

I remember the petrol crisis of the ’70s, when OPEC suddenly raised oil prices and there were queues at petrol pumps. Just as I remember how Ted Heath’s dispute with the coal miners resulted their strike, the three-day week and power cuts. It got to the point that by the middle of the decade the right were expecting a Communist takeover and the end of civilisation as we know it. There were supposedly private militias being formed by bonkers right-wingers while parts of the establishment wanted to overthrow the minority Labour government in a coup to be replaced by a kind of coalition government composed of representatives from all the parties. Well, that was what the Times discussed in its articles. The security services, however, were forming plans to round up trade unionists and left-wing politicians and activists and intern them on a Scottish island somewhere. The editor of the Mirror went to Sandhurst to interest them in overthrowing the government but was met with a no doubt polite refusal. I think he, or one of the other plotters, even went as far as Paris to see if that old Fascist, Oswald Mosley, would be interested in leading the new government.

All that has been used in the Tory myth that socialism doesn’t work, and only creates the economic and political chaos that helped bring Britain to its knees. Chaos that was only ended by the glorious reign of Maggie.

Except that these problems look like they’re coming back, and this time the fault is Brexit and the free market.

I think Boris will be able to find temporary solutions to alleviate, but not cure, some of these problems. He has, for example, introduced new legislation to encourage lorry drivers from the continent to come over here. But the underlying structural problems remain. The only way to solve them is through nationalisation.

The Labour party is in an excellent position to drive this home, at least in the case of gas. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it should still be landing hard blows on Johnson and the Tories because of Brexit’s massive failures. But Starmer isn’t doing that. Instead, as Zelo Street pointed out in a piece published a day or so ago, the Labour leader is more intent instead on destroying democracy in his party as part of his war on the left.

Which is why I’m almost nostalgic for the old Socialist Workers’ Party. They’re still around, rebranded as ‘the Socialist Party’, but they’re nowhere near as active as they were. Whenever there was any kind of crisis or major issue you could count on them turning up with their megaphones and copies of their newspaper to harangue the masses and demand further action against the problem. Unfortunately, in many cases the Socialist Workers’ Party were the problem. They colonised left-wing issues in an attempt to turn protest groups into front organisations, which they could then use to produce further discontent. Rock Against Racism collapsed when the SWP took over the leadership of that organisation, formed to protest against the rise of Fascism. They were also busy infiltrating the Labour party and other left-wing parties here and abroad with the intention of radicalising them. I think the eventual hope was to create some kind of mass revolutionary movement. It didn’t work, and has only resulted in purges, such as that of Militant Tendency by Kinnock in the 1980s. In fact, the policy has helped strengthen the right in the Labour party, as they smeared Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Trotskyite infiltrators as the pretext for their continue purge.

The Trotskyites lived, however, in the firm belief that capitalism would eventually fail. Well, it isn’t doing that now, but it should be abundantly clear that Thatcherite free market capitalism isn’t working. The SWP would have realised that and tried to get the message across. The Labour left, which isn’t remotely Trotskyite, realises too that Thatcherism isn’t working. Their solution is simply a return to the mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. This wasn’t perfect, but it operated far better than the free market shambles we have now. And no, mixed economies are not ‘Communist’, ‘Trotskyist’ or ‘far left’. The real Communists and Trotskyists hated it as a form of capitalism, just as they hated reformist socialist parties like Labour.

But Starmer’s leadership is pledged to propping up the same wretched free market capitalism. Which is why I really feel there should be a mass movement driving home the point, again and again, that Thatcherism is ideologically and economically bankrupt. It is doing nothing but producing chaos in the economy and industry, and poverty and starvation to Britain’s working people. And this poverty will get worse. This is why I’m almost nostalgic for the wretched SWP, as they would have been determined to drive this home. And who knows? Perhaps if they behaved like a reasonable party, they might have gained further support and forced the Labour party to rediscover its socialist heritage in order to head off a challenge from real Communists.