Posts Tagged ‘Welfare State’

Simon Webb Now Pushing NHS Privatisation

February 6, 2023

With the NHS crisis the Tories the Tories have created, the sharks really are circling in the water. Nana Akua of GB News seems to be one of those plugging its privatisation, along with broadcaster, stalker and jailbird Alex Belfield. And now they’ve been joined by Our Favourite Internet (non)Historian, Simon Webb. He put up a post this morning with the title ‘What’s So Bad About Privatising the NHS?’ It’s short, but I haven’t watched it on the grounds that I’d find it too infuriating. Webb is, of course, far right, and seems to get most of his views from the Torygraph, which has also been pushing this nonsense. As someone who takes history seriously, Webb should know what an immense difference the NHS and the welfare state made to the lives of ordinary Brits. I’ve blogged about it, citing my sources. But some of those I’ve used were by social worker types, the kind of people the Tory party has been trying to discredit for donkey’s years, and so someone like Webb would simply ignore them out of hand. But I’ve also used books from the time looking forward to the foundation of the NHS, as well as Jackie Davis’ and Ray Tallis’ excellent NHS – SOS. In contrast to what the privatisers will tell you, private healthcare is not more efficient. It’s less. Private hospitals are smaller, and in order to make a profit private healthcare largely ignores the long-term sick in order to concentrate on people who are mostly well. When private healthcare companies have taken over doctors’ surgeries in this country, they’ve closed down those they consider unprofitable, leaving thousands without a doctor. Also, private healthcare spends a large proportion of their running costs on administration, so as a consequence these costs have risen in the NHS as a consequence of its privatisation.

At the moment there seems to be a trend among the political class to be looking at the continental healthcare systems, where medical costs are paid by a mixture of state and private health insurance. But this also neglects the simple fact that these countries also spend much more on their healthcare generally than we do. The privatisation of the NHS won’t improve healthcare, but it will give private healthcare firms the support of the state sector, which is what they want.

And it seems to me that what the Tories really want is a completely private healthcare system, funded by private health insurance, like America. And that really would be disastrous. Except for their corporate friends, of course, who would get all those great profits.

A few years ago I wrote a book and a pamphlet against the privatisation of the NHS. Here’s their description. The pamphlets are available from me, if you want one, while the book’s available from Lulu.

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

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

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

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

Here’s the video I made years ago for my book against the privatisation of the health service.

I also put up this video, which only four people have watched, asking people to vote Labour to defend the NHS. I hope people will, as some Labour MPs will defend it. But I’m not at all sure about Starmer.

Greens Take Hotwells Ward to Become Biggest Party on Bristol Council

February 3, 2023

Yesterday there was a local election for the ward of Hotwells and Harbourside in Bristol. I had an invitation from the local Labour party to help them campaign for it, but circumstances prevented me from physically going and I do not believe in phone banking. Anyway, the results are in. It was won by the Green party, who took it from the Lib Dems by 26 seats. This is quite ironic, as in the last election the Lib Dems only won that ward by the same number. This victory now makes the Greens the largest party in the council, though I gather that none of them have an overall majority.

Hotwells is one of the city’s historic districts on the banks of the Avon running through the city, and where Bristol’s harbour was before it was abandoned in the 70s and the port moved to its present location at Avonmouth. It’s a mixture of retail, office and residential buildings, including some dating from the 18th and 19th centuries when it, along with Clifton, were the city’s spa districts. Some of the housing is very modern and upmarket, while there are also a couple of 60s/70s brutalist tower blocks. It’s also the location for one of Bristol’s private schools, Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital. It’s population also includes lecturers and academics from Bristol university, which is literally just up the road in Clifton. Just across the river are a couple of converted tobacco bonds, one of which now houses the city’s archives while another is, or was, the site of a green technology centre.

Bristol is quite a green city. Under the Labour mayor, Marvin Rees, the local authority’s put in a number of new cycle lanes and in that part of the city you do see people pedalling away, including women with their children in trailers behind them. The council has also announced other plans for developing a local green economy, including a clean air zone which has caused controversy in recent weeks because of the way it affects traffic.

Bristol Live reported that the new councillor, ‘ 24-year-old Cllr McAllister, who works in legal services, said his party was now preparing to take power in Bristol.

He said: “Successive Conservative-led governments and our Labour-run council have left our residents feeling frustrated — whether it’s through botched consultations on new developments, repair works to public throughways going on for years, the cladding crisis, or even threatening to take away our library.

“There’s never been a more vital time to speak up for our communities, and that is exactly what I’m going to do from now on. The Green Party is now the biggest group in the council, with 25 councillors, and I recognise the weight of that responsibility. As a team we are putting together our programme so we are ready to run this city from next year.

“In the meantime, I think that the city council’s current leadership has a responsibility as well — they have to now recognise the mandate that the Green Party has. I’m really looking forward to getting on with the job and representing this amazing community with the commitment and enthusiasm that it deserves.”’

See: https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/greens-win-bristol-election-race-8106783

He undoubtedly has a point about local service. Roadworks with the attendant diversions have been going on in Temple Meads for many years now, as well as in the rest of the city. And the council is considering closing Bristol Central Library and moving it to another location. Rees has also made decisions that make little sense, and have ignored the wishes and opinions of local people. The city wishes to build a new, top-level stadium. The ideal location would be Temple Meads, because it’s the site of the railway station and is a very short drive from the motorway. Rees decided against that, ruling instead that it should be build in Patchway, a district miles away in the north of Bristol. He also upset the local people in Hengrove and Whitchurch in his plans for the redevelopment of Hengrove Park. This was to be the site of new housing, but locals objected because there were too many homes planned and no amenities. They voiced their complaints to Rees, who politely met them. They also submitted them, and their alternative plans, to the relevant supervisory authority, who ruled in the favour. But Rees ignored them, and bulldozed his plans through.

But some of those 26 voters may also have been swayed by national issues. I’ve got very strong reservations about the Greens’ social policies. I’ve got the impression they’re very woke. It was the Green-led local authority in Brighton and Hove which caused controversy a couple of years ago by teaching Critical Race Theory in its schools. In Bristol, former Green councillor Cleo Lake put forward the motion calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to all ‘Afrikans’. In Scotland, it seems to be the Greens behind the Gender Recognition Act, which would lower the age of consent for children to identify as trans to 16, cut back on the amount of time a transperson would have to live as a member of the sex they wish to transition to. As well as the policy that has seen dangerous biologically male rapists locked away in women’s prisons.

But they also have great economic and welfare policies. As I posted a few days ago, I caught their party political broadcast the other night, and they said all the right things when it came to the NHS and the utilities: they want them renationalised along with a proper welfare state. Brilliant! These are the policies that Jeremy Corbyn put forward in his brilliant manifesto, and which Starmer promised to retain. Until he dumped them during a policy review. A few years ago the Greens were gaining on Labour in Bristol before Corbyn became leader, and I have no doubt that some of that was due to the Blairism of Miliband’s leadership.

The Bristol Live report speculates that the victory could mean trouble for Labour in the local elections here in 2024. That’s a real possibility. Novara Media has put up a video today in which Michael Walker and Dalia Gebreal discuss the failure of the Labour leadership to voice support for the strikers. There has been no messages of support from their front bench and Starmer has been going around sacking those that have stood on picket lines. On the other hand, when asked about this, the local MP for Bristol south, Karin Smyth, said quite rightly that the party still defends the right to strike and gave some reasonable objections to MPs standing with the pickets. But it still looks to me like Starmer not wanting to be seen backing strikers and alienating all the Tory and Lib Dem voters he wants to atract.

The Greens have won by a very narrow majority, which could vanish come 2024. But it’ll be very interesting to see how well they do and how the local Labour party responds to their challenge.

Richard Tice: Cut Benefits to Stop Immigration

January 31, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hurrah! The Green Party Wants to Renationalise the NHS

January 27, 2023

I don’t usually watch the party political broadcasts. I find them too boring, depressing and, in the case of the Tories, infuriating. But I caught a bit of the Greens’ broadcast last night, and was impressed. They stated that as part of their platform of policies they would renationalise the NHS, end its outsourcing and make social care free at the point of use as with the health service. Excellent! This is what the Labour party should be doing, and should have done 16 years ago when Blair won his landslide victory in 1997. But I’m afraid Starmer won’t. Everything he’s said has raised warning signs that he means to privatise more of the health service following Blair’s precedent, starting with using private healthcare providers to clear the backlog of cases. This is exactly what the Tories have been saying. Or course, Jeremy Corbyn wanted to renationalise the NHS, along with the public utilities and restore and revitalise the welfare state. Which is why they smeared him, first as a Communist, then as an anti-Semite, enthusiastically aided by Starmer’s allies in the Labour party.

I’ve very mixed feelings about the Greens. They’re very woke. There was a controversy a few years ago about the schools in Brighton, which I think is a Green council or their MP is Green, teaching Critical Race Theory and White Privilege. In Scotland the Greens are behind the SNP’s wretched Gender Recognition Act, which would lower the age people can legally declare themselves trans to 16 amongst other reforms. I don’t doubt that it’s meant well, but I strongly feel it will do much harm by encouraging confused young people to pursue medical treatment that may be totally inappropriate for them and could lead to lasting harm.

But I entirely support their demand for a properly nationalised and funded NHS.

I am just annoyed that it’s the Greens, who are regarded as an extreme, fringe party, demanding this and not Labour.

Well, a few years ago the Greens took a number of local seats from Labour in the council elections in Bristol until they were only one or two behind them on the council. I would therefore not blame anyone if, in the forthcoming council elections, they turned their votes away from Starmer’s Labour and voted Green instead.

Spat Between UKIP and Reform as Tice Refuses Offer of an Alliance

January 23, 2023

This comes from a video by right-winger Mahyar Tousi on YouTube. UKIP has been trying to organise some kind of alliance with the other right-wing populist parties and splinter groups. They have said that if they join this alliance they can keep their leaders and independence under an agreement intended to bring all these groups an electoral victory which would be beyond them as individual, separate groups. To join this proposed alliance, all that was necessary was that 95 per cent of the parties’ views should be the same. Today UKIP’s deputy fuehrer, Rebecca Jane, announced that the only one of these smaller right-wing parties to have ignored the Kipper’s overtures was Reform. She stated that it because its Duce, Richard Tice, believed that he could challenge the other parties alone. This was a mistake. She also criticised him for criticising the Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen, who had been thrown out for attacking the Covid compulsory vaccination programme. Tousi himself declared that this was splitting the right, and that it was all a clash of personalities rather than any real disagreement over policies..

I was surprised that UKIP was still going. I thought it had absolutely collapsed and been wound up following the departure of Nigel of Farage, his replacement by Gerard Batten and the entry into the party of Count Dankula, Carl Benjamin and Paul Joseph Watson. I also thought that whatever remained of the party had been reconstituted as Reform, but that’s evidently not true. As for these parties remaining separate and splitting the right, I am more than happy to see that continue. From what I’ve seen, they’re all hard right, Thatcherite parties, who’d continue the Tories’ attack on the welfare state and NHS. The only difference I can see is that they’d be more overt about it. And that is quite apart from their aggressively anti-immigrant policies.

I therefore think it’s no bad thing that these right-wing, populist parties are divided. Labour’s not perfect, but I want them to gain power and overturn 12 wretched years of Tory misrule. And these parties splitting the vote between hopefully makes that easier.

Gracchus Babeuf and the Calls for a Welfare State in 18th Century France

January 21, 2023

Gracchus Babeuf was a French revolutionary, who tried to overthrow the Directory and establish a communist state during the French Revolution as the leader of the ‘Conspiracy of Equals’. He’s one of the founders of the European socialist and communist traditions. I’ve been reading Ian Birchall’s book on him and his legacy, The Spectre of Babeuf (Haymarket Books 2016), and it’s fascinating. Birchall discusses the influences on Babeuf, which included Morelly, the author of the Code de la Nature, which also advocated a communist system with a centrally planned economy, Nicolas Collignon, who wrote an 8 page pamphlet demanding the same, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In Collignon’s ideal state, the citizens were to be provided with free food and clothing, high quality housing, schools and healthcare. Like the Tories, he also believed in competition, so doctors would be graded according to their performance. Those that cured the most would be consequently paid more and get promotion, while those who cured the least would be struck off. Even before he devised his own communist plans, he was already discussing the need for collective farms. What he meant by this is not collective farms in the soviet sense, but farms run cooperatively by their workers rather than a single farmer with employees. And he was also in favour of creating a welfare state. In a book he authored on correct taxation, he wrote

‘That a national fund for the subsistence of the poor should be established. That doctors, apothecaries and surgeons should be psif wages out of public funds so that they can administer assistance free of charge. That a system of national education be established out of which all citizens may take advantage. That magistrates be also paid wages out of public revenue, so that justice can be done free of charge.’ (p. 29).

Birchall also attacks the view promoted by Talmon in his The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy that Babeuf was an authoritarian who prefigured soviet tyranny. Talmon was an Israeli Conservative writing at the beginning of the Cold War. But Babeuf himself, although a revolutionary, was also keen to preserve and expand democracy. One of his suggestions was that there should be a set of elected officials charged with making sure that delegates to the national assembly were representing their constituents properly. If they weren’t, the people had the right to recall them.

Regarding industrial organisation, he believed that the citizens in each commune should be divided into classes, each class representing a different trade. The members of these classes would appoint governors, who would set the work and carry out the instructions of the municipal government. It’s very much a command economy, and utopian in that money would be abolished.

I can’t say I find Babeuf’s full-blown communist ideas attractive, for the reason I believe in a mixed a economy and the right of people to do what they wish outside of interference from either the authorities or other people. And I really don’t see how such a state could last long without a money economy. Some Russians looked forward to the establishment of such an economy at the beginning of the Russian Revolution when the economy began to break down and trading went back to barter in some areas until the Bolsheviks restored the economy. And there is clearly conflict between violent revolution and democracy. But I respect his calls for a welfare state. He was also an advocate of equality for women and an opponent of imperialism, which he felt corrupted extra-European peoples with European vices. This view is clearly based on the 17th century ideas of the Noble Savage, in which primitive peoples are seen as better and more morally advanced than civilised westerners.

Demands for a welfare state are as old as socialism itself. We cannot allow the British welfare state and NHS to be destroyed by the Tories and Blairite Labour under Starmer.

The Fascist Argument Against Free Market Capitalism

January 15, 2023

I notice that as the failure of contemporary free market capitalism becomes every more obvious, its right-wing supporters are out on the net telling everyone how wonderful capitalism is. Capitalism, according to them, has lifted more people out of poverty than any socialist state has ever done. You find this repeated by the Lotus Eaters, and I recent found yet another video on YouTube put up by a right-winger.

Now there is something to this. Marx in the Communist Manifesto was impressed by the global achievements of capitalism, and industrialisation and trade has produced development and prosperity in Britain, the West and elsewhere, and lifted people out of the poverty of agricultural subsistence economies. But this hasn’t been done by capitalism alone. Trade unions have also been part of the development of mass prosperity in the industrialised nations through demands for increased wages, better working conditions and so on, a fact ignored by the right. And working people in the west enjoyed their greatest period of prosperity when capitalism was regulated as part of the post-War consensus. In Britain this took the form of a mixed economy in which the utilities were owned and operated by the state. The privatisation of these utilities, the devastation of the welfare state and the deregulation of the economy has led to a massive transfer of wealth upwards, so that the poor have become colossally poorer and the wealth of the rich even more bloated and obscene. Properly regulated, capitalism does raise people out of poverty. But free market capitalism, of the kind frantically promoted by right-wingers like the Lotus Eaters, has done the reverse.

But let’s grant them that the 19th century was an age of industrial and agricultural expansion in which people enriched themselves. Mussolini expressed this view in his speech about the corporative state he was introducing into Italy. The fascist corporations were industrial organisations, one for each industry, which included representatives of the trade unions and the owners’ organisations. The Italian parliament was dissolved and reorganised into a Chamber of Fasces and Corporations, in which these organisations were supposed to debate economic policy. In fact, it just served as a rubber stamp for the Duce’s decisions. It was, however, important for propaganda purposes, to show that Mussolini’s regime had transcended capitalism and socialism.

The Fascists weren’t enemies of capitalism, far from it. Mussolini’s constitution made private industry the basis of the state and economic life, which is why I’m using it his critique of free market capitalism against the free marketeers. Mussolini had been a radical socialist, but when the Fascists seized power he declared them to be true followers of Manchester School capitalism. In other words, free trade. This was accompanied by a programme of privatisation. In Germany Hitler gave a speech to the German equivalent of the Confederation of British Industry, saying that capitalism could only be preserved through a dictatorship. He stated that he would not nationalise any company, unless it was failing. During the Nazi dictatorship industry was organised into a series of interlocking associations subject to state control. But they were not nationalised, and the leadership of the organisations was always given to private industrialists, not the managers of state industries.

Back to Italy, Mussolini described how this initial period had begun to decay. The old family run firms declined, to be replaced by joint stock companies. At the same time, firms organised themselves into cartels. In America, these cartels demanded intervention from the government. Mussolini announced that, if left unchecked, this would lead to the emergence of a state capitalism that was every bit as pernicious as state socialism. His solution was that capitalism needed to be more ‘social’. It would be subordinated to the state through the corporations, where workers and management would cooperate to make Italy a great power once more.

Something similar has happened over the past four decades. Under this new corporativism, representatives of private industry have entered government as advisors and officials, often in the departments charged with regulating their industries. At the same time, industry has received massive subsidies and tax breaks so that much of the tax burden has moved lower down on working people. Mussolini was correct about private industry demanding state intervention, however much this is denied and state planning attacked by free market theorists. And the result is corporativism, which the free marketeers denounce as not being true capitalism. But it’s been pointed out that the type of capitalism they believe in has never existed.

Free market capitalism is a failure. The solution is not a murderous dictatorship, but the old, regulated, mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. An economy that includes private industry, but which recognises that it alone does not create wealth, and which demands the inclusion of working people and their organisations in industrial negotiations and policies in order to create prosperity for working people.

Simon Webb Attacks Secret Magistrate Courts

January 15, 2023

Webb also put up another piece yesterday, which also looks remarkably left-wing. He was attacking the secret magistrates’ courts, which according to him now handle half the country’s court cases. These deal with minor offences like speeding and parking fines. However, they meet in secret, and journalists, the defendant and their defence counsel are not present. The accused simply gets a form through the post asking them how they plead. Webb makes the point that this is against the British tradition of open justice, that not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done. It’s why there are public galleries in courts and their doors were flung open in court cases. These courts date from 2015, and Webb fears that although they only deal with minor cases at the moment, they will expand to include more serious cases later on.

This is interesting. I had no idea these courts existed though I was aware that Cameron had set up a system of secret courts, at which the defendant may not know the identity of his accuser or hear the evidence against him, and from which journalists are also barred, if it was deemed necessary for reasons of national security. I blogged against this, as did many other left-wing bloggers, because it is too much like the travesties of justice described by Franz Kafka in his novels The Trial and The Castle, and which became a terrifying reality in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia. My guess is that Cameron probably set them up in order to clear a backlog of minor, civil offences that had been building up. But I do agree with Webb that there is a danger that this system will expand and become a serious threat to British justice. After all, the food banks were originally set up to cater to illegal immigrants after Blair passed legislation stating they were no longer eligible for benefit. These have now massively expanded due to the Tories’ attack on the welfare state and determination to keep workers’ wages well below the level of inflation at literally starvation level. For all the right’s boasts about defending liberty and democracy, they hate independent, impartial justice and I can easily see this system expanding to cover criminal cases under some pretext or other.

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

January 8, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

GB News’ Mark Steyn Coming Very Close to Pushing Fascist Conspiracy Theories about Covid Vaccine

January 5, 2023

GB News, the self-proclaimed alternative to the ‘wet, woke BBC’, is in this fortnight’s Private Eye. The broadcaster apparently has overtaken Sky News in ratings, and has taken to pushing stupid, and potentially dangerous conspiracy theories. These include myths that the vaccine doesn’t work, or is responsible for deaths, and that there’s no need for the lockdown. Pretty much staples of the wider right-wing anti-vaxxer fringe. But one of these conspiracy theories comes very close to fascism. Mark Steyn has apparently told his viewers that the coronavirus vaccine is the cause of the falling birthrate in the west of the ‘Aryans’, who built civilisation. Firstly, as the 19th century linguist, who used the term ‘Aryan’ for what are now termed the Indo-European languages, George Muller, it’s a linguist not racial term. A dark-skinned Indian, who speaks Hini or one of the other languages descended from Sanskrit, or an Urdu-speaking Pakistani can both be fairly described as Aryans, because their languages are derived from that introduced by the Aryans, who invaded Indian c. 3000 BC. But both would be targeted by the Nazis over here because of their race. Muller stated quite clearly that conflating Aryan with race was dangerous, and it’s a pity more people didn’t listen to him otherwise the carnage of the Third Reich might have been avoided.

He’s right that the birthrates in the developed west are falling along with the sperm count of western men. This is alarming, as there have been predictions by respectable magazines and newspapers that if it continues, by 2050 half of western men will be considered clinically infertile. No-one really knows the cause of this, but it’s been suggested since the 1990s that a type of plastic, phthallates, may be responsible. Other causes are probably the industrial pollution responsible for the reproductive deformities in amphibians, which Alex Jones notoriously declared were ‘turning the frickin’ frogs gay’. These chemicals are believed to mimic female hormones, hence their damage to those animals. I’ve also seen claims that it’s all due to female hormones from the reproductive pill getting into the biosphere, but I haven’t seen any scientist make this claim. In my opinion, it comes from that part of the right which is anti-feminist and so pro-life as to condemn contraception as well as abortion. I also got the impression that all western men were affected, including Blacks and Asians, and not just Whites.

Steyn’s claims resemble the conspiracy theories that were going around the Black communities in America and possibly apartheid South Africa back in the 90s. These claimed that the government was putting chemicals in Coca-Cola to sterilise young Black men. That was totally wrong, though it was understandable given the persecution of Blacks in both those countries. Steyn’s is a first-world, White version of this. It comes very close to all the stupid and murderous conspiracy theories about the machinations of the Jews to enslave and destroy the White race, although as far as I know Steyn isn’t an anti-Semite.

He is, however, an Islamophobe. About a decade ago he was a partner with late Reaganite bloviator Rush Limbaugh and his radio station out in New Hampshire. Much of the content Steyn put out on his blogs and columns on the internet were attacks on Islam, including some of the weirder rulings made by Iran’s late Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini. He was one of those pushing the ‘Eurabia’ fear. This holds that Muslim birthrates are outstripping those of indigenous European Whites to such an extent that they will become the dominant race and religion and impose sharia law. A friend of mine told me he did some calculations, and that’s simply not going to happen. I don’t doubt that the Muslim population will expand immensely in the next decades, and this will present serious problems if the radicals and Islamists extend their influence over these communities, but it won’t lead to their population overtaking everyone else’s.

Steyn also tried to warn or scare people with the example of Feyenoord in the Netherlands. This is a majority Muslim town where some decades ago the Muslim dominated city council publicly invited the non-Muslim population to convert. I don’t know, but I think their attitude would be unremarkable, perhaps even ordinary in very pious, hardline Muslim countries like Pakistan, where non-Muslims can come under very intense pressure to convert. But obviously in the context of the non-Muslim, secular west, where religion is considered a matter for the individual’s private conscience, it’s totally unacceptable. The problem is, I don’t know how common such political moves by Muslim-controlled local authorities are. As far as I know, it only happened in Feyenoord, although I’m sure that non-Muslims living in solidly Muslim areas are under pressure to conform to their standards of behaviour.

Away from Steyn, the article describes how GB News, like Fox over in the US, threw in their lot with Donald Trump, talking him as US president until it became the ‘MAGA channel’. Their predictions of Trump’s eminent suitability for the Oval Office was definitely born out by the Orange Buffoons massive greed, incompetence and disastrous policies towards blue collar workers – more attacks on their rights, further decimation of their welfare provisions to enrich Trump’s friends and donors, and more outsourcing. As well as attempts to muzzle federal climate and environmental scientists for the benefit of the oil industry. And I could go on.

As for GB News’ attitudes over here, it’s solidly behind Farage and Brexit and resolutely against the welfare state and the NHS. If you’re a member of the working class, GB News is not your friend. But the stupid conspiracy theories about the coronavirus vaccine threaten to do real harm. We’ve already seen instances where people have refused the vaccine, then caught the virus and died. And Steyn’s story about birthrates and ‘Aryans’ threatens to encourage real Nazis and Fascists, who’ll target not just Muslims but Jews.