Posts Tagged ‘Transport’

The ‘I’ on Labour’s Manifesto Policies

October 12, 2019

Thursday’s edition of the I, for 10th October 2019, carried an article by Nigel outlining Labour’s election promises. The article ‘What will be in the Labour Party election manifesto’, stated that ‘Jeremy Corbyn aims to target areas for radical change’. These were itemised and described as follows

Brexit

The plicy issue likely to be at the heart of the election campaign. One in office, Labour would spend three months negotiating a new Brexit deal with Brussels to enable Britain to remain in customs union with the European Union and be closely aligned to the European single market.

It would then organise a referendum within six months, offering voters a choice between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU. Labour would hold a special conference to decide which side it would endorse in the referendum.

Taxes

Labour says its tax-raising plans would only affect give per cent of taxpayers. It is currently committed to increase income tax rates to 45 per cent for salaries over £80,000 and to 50 per cent for salaries over £123,000.

Cuts to corporation tax would be reversed and the rate would be fixed at around 26 per cent. 

Infrastructure

Labour is pledging to spend £250bn on upgrading the UK’s transport, energy and broadband infrastructure. Another £250bn of capital would be provided for businesses and co-ops to “breathe new life into every community”.

Nationalisation

Labour would bring the railways, Royal Mail, the water companies and the National Grid into public ownership so “essential services we all rely on are run by and for the public, not for profit.”

Minimum Wage

Workers of all kinds would be legally entitled to a UK-wide minimum wage of £10 an hour. LOabour says the move will make the average 16- and 17-year-old in employment more than £2,500 a year better off.

Free Personal Care

A new National Care Service would help elderly people in England with daily tasks such as getting out of bed, bathing, washing and preparing meals in their own homes and residential care, and provide better training for carers. The £16bn annual cost would come out of general taxation.

Free Prescriptions

Prescription charges would be abolished in England. They are already free in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

More than 80 per cent of English prescriptions are already issued free of charge, but in other cases patients pay £9 per item.

Boost Doctor Numbers

The number of GP trainees in England would rise by 50 per cent to tackle a recruitment crisis. Labour says it would mean an extra 27 million GP appointments per year.

Scrap Tuition Fees

One of the party’s most popular policies at the last election, Labour is committed to scrapping university tuition fees in England and Wales, which currently stand at a maximum of £9,250 a year.

It would also cancel existing student debt, which the party says has reached “unsustainable” levels.

End Rough Sleeping

Labour would end rough sleeping in five years by allocating thousands of extra homes to people with a history of living on the streets.

Outlaw Fracking/ Increase Renewables

Fracking would be banned “once and for all”, with Labour putting its emphasis on developing clean and renewable energy.

The party wants 60 per cent of UK energy from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 and would build 37 state-owned offshore windfarms. it is pledging to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in a Green Industrial Revolution.

Scrap Ofsted

The schools inspectorate, which the party claims causes higher workload and stress for teachers, would be abolished and replaced with a two-stage inspection regime.

A Four-Day Working Week

Labour would cut the average working week to 32 hours within ten years, but with no loss of pay. It would end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive, which lets firms sidestep EU rules on limiting hours to 48 a week. Zero hours contracts would be banned.

Overturn Union Legislation

Margaret Thatcher’s union legislation would be scrapped as a priority, and moves begun towards collective bargaining in different sectors of the economy.

Reverse Legal Aid Cut

Labour would expand legal aid as a priority with help focussed on housing cases and family law.

These are all policies that this country desperately needs, and so you can expect the Tories, the Lib Dems and the lamestream media, not to mention the Thatcherite entryists in the Labour Party itself, to scream ‘extremism!’ and do everything they can to stop them.

And you can trust that the party is absolutely serious about honouring these promises. Unlike David Cameron, Tweezer and Boris Johnson, all of whose promises about restoring the health service and reversing cuts, bringing down the deficit and ending austerity, have proven and will prove to be nothing but hollow lies.

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Corbyn – Regenerate High Street by Handing Vacant Shops to Community

August 24, 2019

Last weekend’s I, for Saturday, 17th August 2019, carried a report by Nigel Morris on page 4 about the Labour party’s plans to revive ailing high street. Under the scheme announce by Corbyn, the local authority would take over empty business premises to let them to new businesses or community organisations. The article read

Plans to revitalise “struggling his streets” by reopening thousands of boarded-up shops will be set out today by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Labour would give councils the power to take over retail units which have been vacant for a year and hand them to start-up businesses or community projects.

Town centre vacancy rates are at their highest level for four years, and Labour says an estimated 29,000 shops across the country have been abandoned for at least 12 months.

It has also registered alarm over the preponderance of charity stores, betting shops and fast-food takeaways in areas which previously had a better mixture of businesses.

The plans, applying to high streets in England and Wales, will be set out by Mr Corbyn in a visit to Bolton today. He is expected to say that boarded-up shops are “a symptom of economic decay under the Conservatives and a sorry symbol of the malign neglect so many communities have suffered.”

Labour revive “struggling high streets by turning the blight of empty shops into the heart of the high street.” The proposals are modelled on the system of “empty dwelling management orders” which entitle councils to put unoccupied houses and flats back into use as homes.

Jake Berry, minister for high streets, said the Government had cut small retailers’ business rates, was relaxing high street planning rules and launched a £3.6bn Towns Fund to improve transport links and boost broadband connectivity. 

I think Corbyn’s idea is excellent. One of the problems of struggling high streets is the ‘smashed window syndrome’, as I believe it’s called. Once one shop becomes vacant, and has it’s windows smashed or otherwise vandalised, it has a strange psychological effect on the public. They stop going into that particular area for their shopping, and the other businesses start to close down. This is why it’s important to prevent it. Business rates might be part of the problem, but I’ve also heard that it’s also due to economics of the private landlords. I can remember my barber complaining to me about it back in the 1990s. He was angry at the increase in rents he and the other shops in his rank had had foisted on them by the landlord. He also complained that despite the high rents, there were shop units that were still unlet, because for some reason the landlord found it more profitable to keep them that way than to let an aspiring Arkwright take them over.

I’ve long believed in exactly the same idea as Corbyn’s. It struck me that with the expansion of higher education, we now have an extremely well-educated work force. But the current economics of capitalism prevent them from using their skills. If successive governments really believe that the increase in university education will benefit the economy, then graduates need to be able to put their hard-earned skills and knowledge into practice. They should be allowed to create businesses, even if these are not commercially viable and need community support. Because it’s better than forcing them to starve on the dole, or climb over each other and the less educated trying to grab low-skilled jobs in fast-food restaurants. And if these new businesses don’t make a profit, but keep people coming back to the high streets, but give their aspiring entrepreneurs skills and experience they can use elsewhere, or deliver some small boost to the local economy, then they will have achieved some measure of success.

This is an excellent idea. And if it’s put into practice, I think it’ll demonstrate that Socialists are actually better for business than the Tories.

How Labour Can Become a Party of the Countryside

April 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Scientists Plan March against Trump

January 28, 2017

After the massive numbers of people involved in the women’s marches against Trump held around the world last weekend, American scientists are also planning to organise their own demonstration against the Orange Caudillo in protest at his disastrous environmental and health policies.

In this video, TYT Nation’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a report in Forbes’ discussing the formation of the new group of scientists planning this march. The group has it’s own internet page, and in five days its members grew from 200 to 200,000 +. The group says it will include non-scientists as well as scientists, and is intended to advocate the greater involvement of science in government. It’s purpose is to defend climate science, evolution, and alternative energy. Waldorf states that he too believes strongly that science should be more involved in government. He also quibbles with the phrasing in the Forbes’ article, taking issue with the magazine’s description of the scientists as ‘believing’ in the environmental damage caused by the fossil fuel industries. Waldorf argues that scientists’ in these areas don’t believe, because they have proof that oil pipelines, such as DAPL, can rupture, creating massive oil spills and environmental destruction.

Waldorf also argues that, although he understands why people in America’s coal country wish to retain the industry for as long as possible for the sake of their jobs, renewables are now becoming cheaper than oil for the first time. It’s time to move from the horse and buggy to the automobile, is the metaphor he uses. He also notes that 75 per cent of Trumps’ own supporters are also in favour of solar and wind power, and natural gas. Waldorf himself is not in favour of natural gas, as it’s still a fossil fuel, with the environmental problems that poses. At the moment, the movement is still in the planning stage, but hopes to issue a mission statement soon. In the meantime, they state that a government that sacrifices science to ideology is a threat not just to America, but also the world.

I wish the scientists the best of luck in their campaigns against Trump’s attack on climate change and green energy. I think, however, Waldorf has a rather too optimistic view of science. There’s quite a debate in the philosophy of science over what constitutes ‘proof’. In one view, articulated by the great philosopher of science, Karl Popper, science advances through falsification. You can’t prove a particular theory. What you do instead is show that other explanations are false. In many areas of science, the observable effects of experiments, may be tiny and ambiguous. This is why scientists have developed very sophisticated statistical methods for sorting through their observations in search of factual evidence that will support or disprove their theories. Thus, at the risk of nit-picking, it might be fairer to say that climate change and environmental damage by the fossil fuel industry is far better supported by the available evidence, than the minority view that no such change or damage is occurring.

I also think you have to be careful about relying too much on science to solve social problems. The British philosopher, Mary Midgeley, in one of her books pointed out that in some areas, what is needed is a social and industrial solution to a particularly issue, rather than scientific innovation. For example, it could be argued that in the struggle against world hunger, what is needed is not new, genetically engineered crops which produce vast yields, but better transportation methods and infrastructure to supply people with the food that has already been grown.

Despite these very minor quibbles, it is true that orthodox, respectable science in the above areas has been under attack for a long time to serve powerful interests in the fossil fuel industries. Trump this week imposed gagging orders preventing scientists and government workers in the Environmental Protection Agency from revealing their findings. Climate change is happening, and is a real danger to America and the globe. But this awareness frightens the Koch brothers and their wealth in the petrochemical industry. So they, and millionaires like them, are spending vast sums to keep the facts from ordinary peeps. America’s scientists are right to challenge this. Let’s hope their march in support of proper science goes ahead and is well-attended.

William Beveridge on the Six Great Evils

June 21, 2016

I also found this piece by William Beveridge, the author of the Beveridge Report, which laid the foundation for welfare state and the NHS, in the Penguin Book of Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur. In it Beveridge attacks the six great evils his welfare reforms were intended to combat.

My case is that this is very far from being the best of all possible worlds, but that it might be a very good world, because most of the major evils in it are unnecessary – either wholly so or to the extent to which they exist today. The evils which are wholly unnecessary and should be abolished are Want, Squalor, Idleness enforced by unemployment, and War. The evils which are unnecessary to the extent to which they exist today and which should be reduced drastically are Disease and Ignorance.

The six Giant Evils of Want, Squalor, Disease, Ignorance, Idleness and War as they exist in the modern world, are six needless scandals. The Radical Programme which I propose to you is a war on these six giants. As a Liberal I propose it as a programme for the Liberal Party. Let me take the giants in turn, beginning with the easiest to attack.

Want means not having enough money income to buy the necessaries of life for oneself and one’s family. Want in Britain just before this was utterly unnecessary. The productive power of the community was far more than enough to provide the bare necessaries of life to everyone (that, of course, is something quite different from satisfying the desires of everyone). Want arose because income – purchasing power to buy necessaries – was not properly distributed, between different sections of the people and between different periods in life, between times of earning and not earning, between times of no family responsibilities and large family responsibilities.

Before this war, as is said in the Beveridge Report, ‘want was a needless scandal due to not taking the trouble to prevent it’. After this war, if want persists, it will be ever more of a scandal. it is contrary to reason and experience to suppose that, with all that we have learned in war, we shall be less productive after it than before. And we know also just how to prevent want – by adopting Social Security in full as set out in the Beveridge Report. This means guaranteeing to every citizen through social insurance that, on condition of working while he can and contributing from his earnings, he shall, when he is unable to work through sickness, accident, unemployment or old age, have a subsistence income for himself and his family, an income as of right without means test, and not cut down because he has other means…

Squalor means the conditions under which so many of our people are compelled to live, in houses ill-built, too small, too close together, either too far from work or too far from country air, with the air around them polluted by smoke, impossible to keep clean, with no modern equipment to save the housewife’s toil, wasting the life and energy of the wage-earner in endless crowded travel to and from his job. Squalor is obviously unnecessary, because the housing which leads to squalor is made by man, and that which is made by man can by man prevented.

The time has come for a revolution in housing, but an essential condition of good housing is town and country planning; to stop the endless growth of the great cities; to control the location of industry so that men can live both near their work and near country air; to manage transport in the national interest, so as to bring about the right location of industry.

Only on the basis of town and country planning should we build our houses and they must be built not just shells, but fully equipped with every modern convenience, with water, light, power, model kitchens for clean cooking, refrigerators, mechanical washers for clothes. As is said in the Beveridge Report: ‘In the next thirty years housewives as mothers have vital work to do to ensure the adequate continuance of the British race and of British ideals in the world.’ They must be set free from needless endless toil, so that they may undertake this vital service and rear in health and happiness the larger families that are needed.

A revolution in housing is the greatest contribution that can be made to raising the standard of living throughout this country, for differences of housing represent the greatest differences between various sections of our people today, between the comfortable and the uncomfortable classes.

Disease cannot be abolished completely , but is needless to anything like its present extent. It must be attacked from many sides by measures for prevention and for cure. The housing revolution, of which I have spoken, is perhaps the greatest of all the measures for prevention of disease. It has been estimated that something like 45,000 people die each year because of bad housing conditions. Scotland – your country and my country – used to be a healthier land than England – with a lower death rate – till about fifty years ago. Now it has a higher death rate, because in the past fifty years its health has not improved nearly as much as that of England. The big difference between the two countries lies in housing, which in many ways is worse here. Let us put that right for our country. Next to better housing as a means of preventing disease ranks better feeding. Experience of war has shown how much can be done to maintain and improve health under the most unfavourable conditions by a nutrition policy carried out by the state on the basis of science. It is essential for the future to make good food available for all, at prices within the reach of all, and to encourage, by teaching and by price policy good nutrition instead of mere eating and drinking.

Ignorance cannot be abolished completely, but is needless to anything like its present extent. Lack of opportunity to use abilities is one of the greatest causes of unhappiness. A revolution in education is needed, and the recent Education Act should be turned into the means of such a revolution. Attacking ignorance means not only spending money on schools and teachers and scholars in youth, but providing also immensely greater facilities for adult education. The door of learning should not shut for anyone at eighteen or at any time. Ignorance to its present extent is not only unnecessary, but dangerous. Democracies cannot be well governed except on the basis of understanding.

With these measure for prevention must go also measure for cure, by establishing a national health service which secure to every citizen at all times whatever treatment he needs, at home or in hospital, without a charge at the time of treatment. It should be the right and the duty of every British citizen to be as well as science can make him. This, too, was included in my report more than two years ago. Let Us get on with it.

Unemployment, as we have had it in the past, is needless. The way to abolish unemployment is not to attack it directly by waiting until people are unemployed and then to make work for them, but to plan to use the whole of our manpower in the pursuit of vital common objectives.

The Radical Programme for attacking the five giants of Want, Squalor, Disease, Ignorance and Idleness through unemployment is all one programme. We abolish unemployment in war because we are prepared to spend up to the limit of our manpower in abolishing Hitler. We can equally abolish unemployment in peace by deciding to spend up to the limit of our manpower in abolishing social evils.

The last and the greatest of the giant evils of the world is War. Unless we can win freedom from war and from fear of war, all else is vain. The way to abolish murder and violence between nations is the same as that by which we abolish murder and violence between individuals, by establishing the rule of law between nations. This is a task beyond the power of any nation but it is within the power of the three great victorious nations of this war – the United States, Soviet Russia and the British Commonwealth. If those three nations wish to abolish war in the future they can do so, by agreeing to accept impartial justice in their own case and to enforce justice in all other cases, but respecting the freedom and independence of small nations and the right of each nation to have its own institutions so long as these do not threaten harm to its neighbours. By doing so, they will accomplish something far more glorious than any victory in war. In the past statesmen have prided themselves in getting ‘Peace with honour’. The formula of the future – the only one that can give us lasting peace – should be ‘Peace with justice’. Honour is national, justice is international. (pp. 173-5).

As you can see, it’s quite dated in its conception of gender roles – men go out to work, while women stay at home and raise the large families the state and society need. And after the Nazis and Fascist groups like them, any talk of national ‘races’ looks extremely sinister, though there isn’t any racist undertones here.

And Beveridge was exactly right about the evils he wanted to combat, and they’re still very much alive now. Nutrition and pricing have all returned with the campaign to improve a tax on sugary foods and drinks, and so combat the obesity epidemic and rising levels of diabetes.

And the other issues have all returned thanks to Maggie Thatcher. She deregulated and privatised public transport, which has led to further inefficiencies on the roads and railways. She and the regimes that have followed her were and are determined to destroy the welfare state, including the health service, which Cameron and Clegg both wanted to privatise.

And the result has been rising levels of poverty. It’s time we scrapped Thatcherism root and branch, and went back to the founding principles of the welfare state. The principles that were put into practice by Labour’s Aneurin Bevan.

Shirley Williams on Milton Friedman and the Failing of Free Market Capitalism

May 25, 2016

SWilliams Book Pic

The supposed benefits of free market capitalism and deregulation are at the heart of the ‘New Right’ doctrines expressed in Thatcherism and Blairite New Labour. Thatcher took her credulous adulation of the free market from the American Chicago school of economics, most notably von Hayek and Milton Friedman. These doctrines became New Labour orthodoxy under Tony Blair following Labour’s defeat in the 1987 general election. Despite Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor, having lost the 2010 election, and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn from the Old Labour Left as leader of the party, Thatcherite ideals are still espoused and promoted by the Blairite faction in the Progress ‘party-within-a-party’ in Labour.

Yet even at the time Thatcher was implementing the free market reforms that have devastated the British economy and society, it was obvious to the majority of people on the Left that the free market simply didn’t work. Shirley Williams, the right-wing Labour MP, who left to form the SDP with David Owen, now merged with the Liberals, was one of them. In her book, Politics Is For People (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1981), she makes the following remarks and criticisms of Friedman’s grand notions of the effectiveness of the free market.

Professor Friedman, however, overstates his case – often to a ludicrous extent. There are many needs the market is incapable of meeting, because they are collective needs – for clean water, clean air, public health, a good transport system. The market is geared to individual demands and to individual purses; in meeting them, it does not count social costs or social consequences. Furthermore, there are individual demands that cannot be made effective because the individual cannot afford to satisfy them, typically, treatment for serious illness, chronic invalidism, care in old age. The market is a mechanics ill-adapted to the cycles of an individual’s life history, which move from dependence through independence back to dependence again, and also to the cycles of the economy. In his recent book, Free to Choose, Professor Friedman asserts: ‘Sooner or later, and perhaps sooner than many of us expect, ever bigger governments will destroy both the prosperity that we care for in the free market and even the human freedom proclaimed so eloquently in the Declaration of Independence.’ In an obvious sense, the Professor must be right. Total government, controlling the whole economy, would indeed be likely to destroy both prosperity and human freedom. But again his case is hopelessly overstated. In many European countries public expenditure constitutes 40 per cent or more of the gross national product. yet who is to say that Sweden or Denmark or the Federal Republic of Germany are less prosperous and less free than Spain, Argentina or Brazil, in which a much smaller proportion of the gross national product goes into public expenditure? Indeed the extremes of income and wealth characteristic of societies dominated by free market capitalism are not conducive to human freedom or to democratic political systems. Men and women without access to decent working conditions, education, housing and health do not fully share in their society. They are not accorded the human dignity that is intrinsic to the democratic process. their opportunities and their choices are crippled by the unequal distribution of resources. Even if such as country has some form of election, ostensibly based on a universal and secret franchise, the great disparities in economic power will influence the many who are weak to bow to the wishes of the few who are strong. (PP. 16-7).

And this is exactly what has happened. Britain has become much less democratic. Our leaders are rich and middle class elitists, isolated from the mass of the working poor in their own, sealed enclaves. The poor have become much poorer, and are increasingly seeing what few rights they have left stripped from them through Cameron’s reforms of the judicial system, trade union legislation and his assault on workers’ rights. Two decades ago there was a storm when someone announced that Monetarism had failed. Friedman’s free market economics are also an abject failure. They survive only because they sustain and empower a parasitical managerial class, ruling through elite privilege and toxic capitalism. It’s high time Friedman’s discredited ideas were very firmly dumped.

G.D.H. Cole on the Nationalisation of the Utility Industries

March 22, 2016

I found these arguments for the nationalisation of the utility industries in G.D.H. Cole’s 1942 book, Great Britain in the Post-War World (London: Victor Gollancz).

Road and Rail

But these two types by no means exhaust the list of industries and processes which call for early socialisation. The third group consists of industries which, though they include too many separate units to fall under the first group, have nevertheless been shown by practical experience to be incapable of serving the public interest under private enterprise. The outstanding member of this group is the coal industry, which, unable to create a monopoly by its own efforts, has been erected into a private monopoly by legislation, under conditions which have improved its own profits without providing any better for the public service. To this group belong also the public utility services – railways, electricity, gas and water-which are, like the coal industry, so essential to the satisfactory working of the other industries and services and to the health and comfort of the community that inefficiency in their conduct is intolerable and their exploitation for private profit plainly against the public interest. the industries and services in this group are already in various stages of transition from private to public control. The railways resemble the coal industry, in that they have been erected into a virtual monopoly by legislation, after having failed to achieve monopoly by their own efforts. they differ from coal in that no sooner had the State made them into a capitalist monopoly than this monopoly began to break down on account of the developing competition of road transport. But this, so far from improving the situation from the public standpoint, has led to chaotic competition between the rival means of carriage. The railways, tied down by rate-fixing regulations which were intended as safeguards against the abuse of their monopoly, have been unable to adapt their rate structure so as to achieve a sensible distribution of traffic between road and rail in accordance with relative costs; and the road transport agencies, having begun to threaten the railways with bankruptcy, have in their turn been hobbled by restrictive licensing regulations designed to prevent them from capturing from the railways the amount of traffic which would have gone by road under conditions of unrestricted competition.

There appears to be no way out of this impasse but by co-ordination between the two transport agencies, so as to provide a single carrying concern which will transport goods by road or rail according to its own judgement of expediency and cost. But it is clearly out of the question to place this power of judgement in the hands of a profit-seeking monopoly; and there is accordingly a clear case for the unification of both forms of transport under public ownership and control.

Water

Of the public utilities, usually so called, water supply is pre-eminently a public health service, though it is also of great importance to industry. It is already for the most part in public hands; and the problem which it presents is mainly that of extending adequate supplies of pure water to those areas of the country which are at present without them- mainly the rural areas. This clearly will not be done by private enterprise: nor is private enterprise a likely way of ensuring that proper use is made of local resources before water is brought from a distance, or of securing a right allocation of distant sources between rival claimants. It is, moreover, a clear point of principle that public health services ought to be publicly operated and not made the sport of private interests.

Electricity

Electricity supply is already partly socialised, under the Central Electricity Board, which controls main-line transmission; and a large part of the business both of generation and of retail distribution of current to consumers is already under municipal control. But there remain both a number of large private Power Companies, generating current which is sold both to big industrial consumers and to municipal and private distributors, and also a large number of interlocked private companies engaged in generation and distribution. In addition, a number of big concerns, including railways, own their own power-stations. It seems clear that the extremely complicated provisions under which the Central Electricity Board, instead of operating its own generating stations, has to buy current from Power Companies and from municipal and private stations and then re-sell it, often to the very concerns from which it has been bought, is uneconomic and foolish, and that it would be very much better for the Central Electricity Board to take over the whole business of generation, except perhaps where a private station exists solely for supplying the big industrial enterprise which owns it. Given this unification, it would be possible for the ‘Grid’ to institute a national system of charges throughout Great Britain; and the task of electrifying the countryside and the remoter areas generally would be immensely simplified. I do not suggest that the Central Electricity Board should take over the job of the retail distribution of current, which would probably be best organised on a regional basis, under public ownership by some sort of Joint Board or ad hoc authority for each region, subject to a general system of national co-ordinating control. What is clear is that there is no room in this industry for the continuance of private profit-making. The case is one for complete unification of the basic supplies, and for regional public control of the end nearest the consumers.

Gas

Gas supply, again, is already under municipal public ownership in a considerable number of areas. But there are both very big private concerns, such as the Gas Light and Coke Company, and many smaller private concerns, often controlled by the larger companies or holding companies which have bought out the original owners. There is, I think, no clear case for a national unification of the gas supply service, which is destined to remain mainly local. Only in a few areas is long-distance transmission of producer-gas from industry likely to be practicable. Indeed, it becomes less practicable as industries achieve greater efficiency in using up gases that formerly ran to waste. Nor is there any necessary economy in increasing the size of gas undertakings beyond a certain point, which is fairly soon reached. The economy that is important is that of unified technical administration and research; and this can probably best be achieved by regional rather than national consideration. The right solution seems to be the amalgamation of gas undertakings on a regional basis, under regionally unified technical direction. And this could best be achieved by regional public ownership, parallel to the ownership of the system of electricity distribution.

From 2012: Private Eye on Incompetence, Profiteering Bureaucracy and Racism in G4S

April 12, 2014

This is also from the Eye for the 20th April – 3rd of May 2012.

Outsaucing News

G4S, which earns most of its money from the taxpayer, has docked its chief executive Nick Buckle’s bonus over a messed-up bid to take over a Danish cleaning company that cost his firm £55m last year. But never fear: he still get his basic £1.9m salary.

G4s will also still have plenty of cash to pay for the cock-up, plus Buckles’ inflated pay7, since it keeps winning major public service contracts here in the UK.

Last month the UK Border Agency awarded it “prime” contracts worth around £300m to run asylum transport and accommodation in two of the five national regions. In true Big Society fashion, G4S will itself outsource much of this work to local charities and companies (much as workfare schemes are farmed out by A4E).

Despite the extra layers of management and contracting, not to mention the bumper executive pay and the profits demanded by shareholders that such deals entail, UKBA still thinks it will save £150m through the £620m contracts without services suffering.

In January, the home affairs select committee concluded, after a string of scandals including the death in G4S custody of Jimmy Mubenga and racist behaviour among guards, that the government must not “wash its hands of responsibility for detainees just because the service is contracted out”. But by outsourcing prime contracts to bungling Buckles and co a few weeks later, and for his firm to then subcontract the work in return for a decent fee, this seems precisely what the government is doing.

This shows what such Public-Private Partnerships entail: layers of bureaucracy, in which different companies and their shareholders expect a profit, which would be unacceptable in a state-owned enterprise; inflated salaries for chief officers, and massive cuts and savings for the funding allocated for the service, resulting in poor performance. But then, the actual quality of service seems to be very much a secondary consideration. The real reason for such partnerships is to give state contracts to private enterprises run by Tory donors and providing jobs for Tory politicians and apparatchiks.