Posts Tagged ‘Yarls Wood’

19 Years Ago Private Eye Revealed New Labour Plans to Privatise NHS and Education

July 24, 2020

One of the good aspects of Private Eye that has kept me reading it – just about – is the way it has covered the deep and pernicious connections between the political parties and big business. And in their issue for 15th-28 June 2001, right at the beginning of Blair’s second term in government, the Eye revealed his plans to privatise the NHS and the education system in the article ‘How the New Government Will Work’. This ran

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are in two minds: should they privatise the entire delivery of public services or just some of it? To help them decide they are consulting the best minds money can buy.

For a start, Downing Street has a report from the Blairite Institute for Public Policy Research. It recommends that private firms deliver health and education on the widest possible scale. The report, a final paper from IPPR’s “Commission on Public Private Partnerships”, claims that “the crucial ingredient that the private sector possesses and the public sector needs is management.”

The report was paid for by the Serco “institute”, a front for the firm which privately runs a slew of Britain’s prisons and immigration detention centres, including the grim “Doncatraz” Doncaster gaol. Serco failed to win the air traffic control privatisation precisely because of worries about its management.

The report was also supported by Nomura, Japanese bank with a big interest in private finance initiative-style (PFI) deals: Nomura’s management of army housing under PFI has been lamentable. KPMG chipped in to support the report as well. It is not a disinterested party either. KPMG advised on 29 hospital PFI schemes, and many other deals outside health.

The giant accountant’s role in these hospital sell-offs has only come under indepdent scrutiny once: at Dartford and Gravesham hospital. The national audit office (NAO) found that, despite KPMG’s “healthcare” advice, the new hospital probably made no financial saving but did cut beds drastically. KPMG’s own fees were originally tendered at £152,000. It finally billed the NHS for £960,000. For good measure, the Norwich Union, which also put millions in PFI, invested in the IPPR report too.

Martin Taylor, chancellor Brown’s friend who used to run Barclays Bank, acted as “commissioner” in drawing up the IPPR’s advice. He is perfectly suited to the job: as an adviser to Goldman Sachs he is in the pay of a multinational bank which wants to make a profit out of Britain’s poor. Goldman Sachs is involved in PFI: it originally funded the PFI buy-out of all Britain’s dole offices.

As the “honorary secretary” of the Bilderberg group, Taylor is also involved in the secretive corporate schmoozing of big name politicians (he signed up for Bilderberg originally alongside Peter Mandelson). And when he ran Barclays, he showed his “secret ingredient” was disastrous management. Under his stewardship the bank lost £250m gambling in Russian financial markets, and had to stump up £300m to bail out the absurd American “hedge fund”, Long Term Capital Markets.

Eventually Taylor was ousted by a boardroom battle in November 1998 before he could cause more damage. Now he’s decided to help the public sector.

The treasury meanwhile wants to take a second look at IPPR’s prediction about the efficiency of privatisation. In particular chancellor Brown wants to test the idea that the private sector gets greater productivity out of employers through “reskilling”, “efficient shift systems and better motivation” – rather than low pay, poor conditions, long hours and casualisation.

To test the theory he will commission a study by the Office of Government Commerce. This office in turn also has a private manager: Peter Gershon, Britain’s highest paid civil servant on £180,000 a year, plus performance benefits and a three-year contract.

He was formerly chief operating officer at British Aerospace. But far from being expert in efficiency, BAe is best at massive cost overruns, project failures and non-competitive tendering. The managers in charge of the Tornado, Bowman Radio and Type 45 destroyer programmes – all plagued with late delivery and technical problems – reported directly to Gershon.

Since then, Serco have become notorious for their massive inefficiency and the inhuman conditions at the prisons and detention centres they run. One of the most notorious of the latter was Yarl’s Wood, which was so atrocious the asylum seekers rioted. And I don’t think that was only one either. I also remember the outrage that the government’s sale of the army barracks to Nomura caused.

Goldman Sachs and Lehmann’s Bank caused the 2008 world banking crash, ushering over two decades of cuts and austerity, which has made conditions for the poor even more worse. For those who are managing to survive the low pay, monstrous levels of debt, and the almost non-existent welfare state. This has forced millions of people onto food banks to keep body and soul together, and hundreds of thousands are suffering from starvation, or ‘food poverty’ as the media now delicately put it. And I forget what the death toll from this is, it’s so high.

As for low pay, poor conditions and job insecurity – that all increased under Gordon Brown, and has increased even more so under the Tories, as it all keeps the working woman and man down, cowed and fearful, in her and his place.

And the Bilderbergers will be familiar to anyone interested in conspiracy theories. They were some of the ‘Secret Rulers of the World’ covered by Jon Ronson in his documentary series on Channel 4 of the same name.

I dare say some of the names involved in the privatisation agenda has changed, but you can bet it’s all going to come in with Starmer, despite his retention of Corbyn’s election manifesto. ‘Cause that was popular. Now it looks like he’ll undermine it by starting to ignore it.

And we’re back to Blairite misery, despair, poverty and starvation again. Except for the multinationals and their utterly talentless managers. It all looks pretty good for them.

Keir Starmer’s 10 Pledges for the Labour Party

February 22, 2020

I’ve just received a pamphlet from Keir Starmer’s campaign team, promoting him as the future of leader of the Labour Party. It begins with this quote

“I’ve spent my life fighting injustice. I’m standing to be leader of our Labour Party because I’m determined to unite our movement, take on the Tories and build a better future. If all parts of our movement come together, we can achieve anything.”

There’s a brief biography that runs

A Life Devoted to Fighting Injustice

Keir is the son of an NHS nurse and a toolmaker. As a former human rights lawyer, Keir is dedicated to Labour’s core principles of fairness and justice.

He has devoted his whole life to fighting injustice and defending the powerless against the powerful, as his ten-year unpaid battle over the McLibel case goes to show. he has fought against the death penalty abroad, defended mining communities against pit closures, and taken up hundreds of employment rights and trade union cases. After being the Director of Public Prosecutions, he was elected MP for Holborn & St Pancras in 2015, later becoming Shadow Brexit Secretary. Defeating Boris Johnson is a huge task but Keir knows that if we bring our movement together and stay true to our values, we can win, and change Britain for the better.

As leader of the Labour Party, Keir will contine to fight for justice in all its forms: social justice, climate justice, economic justice.

There’s then three columns of endorsement from people such as Dawn French, Rokhsana Fiaz, the elected mayor of Lewisham, Laura Parker, the former National Coordinator of Momentum, Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West and Hessle, Aneira Thomas, the first baby born on the NHS, Sarah Sackman, a public and environmental lawyer, Alf Dubs, the refugee campaigner, Paul Sweeney, the former MP for Glasgow North East, Ricky Tomlinson, David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, Doreen Lawrence, Konnie Huq, the TV presenter and writer, Mick Antoniw, the member of the Welsh Assembly for Pontypridd, Ross Millard of the Sunderland band, the Futureheads, Lucio Buffone, a member of ASLEF and LGBT+ Labour national committee member, and the Unison General Secretary, Dave Prentis.

The back page contains his ‘My Pledges To You’. He says

My  promise is that I will maintain our radical values and work tirelessly to get Labour in to power – so that we can advance the interests of the people our party was created to serve. Based on the moral case for socialism, here is where I stand.

His pledges are as follows

  1. Economic Justice.

Increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. No stepping back from our core principles.

2. Social Justice.

Abolish Universal Credit and end the Tories’ cruel sanctions regime. Set a national goal for wellbeing to make health as important as GDP; invest in services that help shift to a preventive approach. Stand up for universal services and defend our NHS. Support the abolition of tuition fees and invest in lifelong learning.

3. Climate Justice

Put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do. There is no issue more important to our future than the climate emergency. A Clean Air Act to tackle pollution locally. Demand international action on climate rights.

4. Promote Peace and Human Rights.

No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international  peace and justice.

5. Common Ownership.

Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.

6. Defend Migrant’s Rights.

Full voting rights for EU nationals. Defend free movement as we leave the EU. An immigration system based on compassion and dignity. End indefinite detention and call for the closure of centres such as Yarl’s Wood.

7. Strengthen Workers’ Rights and Trade Unions.

Work shoulder to should with trade unions to stand up for working people, tackle insecure work and low pay. Repeal the Trade Union Act. Oppose Tory attacks on the right to take industrial action and the weakening of workplace rights.

8. Radical Devolution of Power, Wealth and Opportunity.

Push power, wealth and opportunity away from Whitehall. A federal system to devolve powers – including through regional investment banks and control over regional industrial strategy. Abolish the House of Lords – replace it with an elected chamber of regions and nations.

9. Equality.

Pull down obstacles that limit opportunities and talent. we are the party of the Equal Pay Act, Sure Start, BAME representation and the abolition of Section 28 – we must build on that for a new decade.

10. Effective Opposition to the Tories.

Forensic, effective opposition to the Tories in Parliament – linked up to our mass membership and a professional election operation. Never lose sight of the votes ‘leant’ to the Tories in 2019. Unite our party, promote pluralism and improve our culture. Robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. Maintain our collective link with the unions.

This is all good, radical stuff, but there are problems. Firstly, his commitment to taking ‘robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism’ and his decision, along with the rest of the Labour leadership contenders, to sign the Board of Deputies’ highly manipulative pledges, means that more people are going to be thrown out of the party without any opportunity to defend themselves, based only the allegations of anonymous accusers. We’ve seen innocents like Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth, Mike Sivier, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and so many others suspended and thrown out through the party’s kangaroo courts. One poor lady has died through the shock of being so expelled, even though she was a passionate anti-racist. This isn’t justice, it’s a pledge to renew the witch hunt.

As for promoting peace and human rights – how long will that last with the Board of Deputies demanding to supervise everything relating to Jews? Israel is a gross violator of human rights, but the Board has consistently defended it and its deplorable actions. Their demands that Labour adopt the IHRC definition of anti-Semitism was to stifle criticism of Israel by declaring them ‘anti-Semitic’. This pledge might be genuine, but the momentum anyone applies it to Israel the BoD will start howling ‘anti-Semitism!’ again and decent people will start getting expelled. Especially if they’re Jewish.

And his plan for giving Britain a federal constitution doesn’t seem to be a good one. From what I’ve read, it has been discussed before, and while it may solve some problems it creates others. It’s supposed to be no better than the current arrangement, which is why it hasn’t been implemented.

I also don’t back him on Europe. Oh, I’m a remainer at heart, but I think a large part of  the reason we lost the election was because, instead of accepting the results of referendum, Labour pledged itself to return to the EU. This was partly on Starmer’s insistence. He is right, however, that EU nationals in the UK should have voting rights.

But I have to say that I don’t trust Starmer. His campaign team were all supporters of Owen Smith, one of those who challenged Corbyn’s leadership. They include Luke Akehurst, one of the leading figures of the Israel lobby within the Labour Party. Tony Greenstein a few days ago put up a piece arguing that, whatever he claims to the contrary, as Director of Public Prosecutions he always sided with the authorities – the police, military and intelligence services – against everyone else.

My fear is that if he becomes leader of the Labour Party, he will quietly forget these pledges and continue the Blair project.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/02/keir-starmer-is-candidate-that-deep.html

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/02/pauline-hammerton-expelled-for.html

May Refuses to Release Rape Figures at Detention Centre for Commercial Reasons

July 31, 2016

This shows the hollowness of the Tory Claims that somehow they are pro-feminist, and that the installation of Theresa May in No 10 is somehow an advance for this country’s women.

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that the Independent had made a request for the official figures of the number of rapes that had occurred at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where immigrants are held while their cases are decided. The Indie noted that many of the women held their had been fleeing rape and war in their countries of origin. The detention centre is operated by Serco, one of the government’s favourite outsourcing contractors, along with G4S. Current legislation means that public bodies have to disclose information when it is in the public interest. But the Home Office turned down this request for information as it would harm the commercial interests of the companies running the centre.

Mike asked the obvious question: When did it become acceptable to use ‘commercial interest’ as an excuse to hide rape?

The question is rhetorical. Of course it isn’t. Mike makes the point that the framing of the request for information makes it clear that it has gone on more than once. he also states that as May was the minister in charge of the Home Office, she has the overall responsibility for what occurred there. And if she is indifferent to the crimes and abuse that happened there, what does this show about her concern for the rest of this country’s population?

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/30/when-did-it-become-acceptable-to-use-commercial-interest-as-an-excuse-to-hide-rape/

The Conservative party has repeatedly used the excuse of ‘commercial interests’ to justify their refusal to release details of the failures of private government outsourcing companies, including private hospitals and clinics. I distinctly remember Mike reporting a few years ago on the way requests for information on the standard of care at the private hospitals and hospital management companies contracted in to perform operations and manage PFI hospitals as part of the government’s privatisation campaign, were similarly turned down for the same reason. Yet similarly confidential information about the costs of running public hospitals were to be given to private companies. This was a naked display of the government’s intention to privatise the Health Service, by giving every advantage to the private sector, while covering up their failures. It is exactly the same here.

The excuse that the information must be protected for reasons of commercial confidentiality while the state’s must be public is easily dismissed. If a private company is performing work for the state, then it effectively becomes part of the res publica, and it is in the public interest to examine how efficient and trustworthy that company is, for exactly the same reasons governing the release of information about public bodies. Part of the rationale for employing private companies is that competition leads to higher standards than possible in a bureaucracy. But competition depends on there being competitors, who are aware of the faults of their rivals, and can correct these to offer better services.

The fact that the Tories don’t want to release such information suggests that they’re not interested in genuinely promoting competition. They’re just interested in promoting private companies. It also suggests that the supposed superior performance of the private sector is a myth. If the number of rapes in Yarl’s Wood detention centre was actually lower than those in state management, then I don’t see how there could be any objection to releasing them. It also suggests to me that, outside of the usual recidivists, there are no other outsourcing companies bidding to take over such services. The government has got to stick with Serco, or G4S, or whoever, because nobody else is going to do the job, and if they go, the whole project fails.

This is exactly similar to the government’s promotion of private healthcare and privatisation of the NHS. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis in their book, NHS-SOS make the point that there is no market for private healthcare in this country, and that private hospitals themselves aren’t efficient compared to state healthcare. The result is that the government, in the form of New Labour and the Tories, has had to resort to continuous intervention in order to do so. And it’s very obvious that’s also the case here.

Private healthcare doesn’t work, and the NHS should be renationalised.
Private prisons and detention centres don’t work, and should be renationalised.

As for what the government’s refusal to release figures specifically about the incidence of rape shows about May’s feminism, it shows that she has little interest in women’s welfare, or at least, in the welfare of women who don’t belong to the upper and upper middle classes. Rape, and violence against women in general, is the quintessential feminist cause. Yet here, May shows that she has no interest in combating it, if it means that her precious companies don’t make a tidy profit. Capitalism first, women’s safety second. After Angela Eagle’s leadership campaign collapsed, one of the female hacks in the I newspaper lamented the absence of strong, charismatic women in the Labour party, and pointed to the Tories’ election of May as their second female prime minister. But this ignores the fact that Maggie Thatcher did not see herself as a feminist. Her public persona was so aggressively masculine that one of the feminists in the Observer dubbed her ‘the best man in the Tory party’. Much the same has been said recently about Hillary Clinton, who is as aggressively militaristic as any of the male hawks with which she surrounds herself. And the same is true of Theresa May. She represents the ability of middle and upper class women to break through the glass ceiling and take senior positions in politics and management. But she has no interest in protecting the interests, rights, dignity and welfare of the people below her, including women.

Mike says of this incident that it’s about time the honeymoon with her was over. I agree. She will do nothing for the poor, and vulnerable, and will just carry on with Cameron’s policies. The fact that she is a woman is merely a piece of liberal camouflage hiding the harshly, exploitative Tory policies underneath.

Demonstration Tomorrow Against The Security and Policing Trade Show 2016

March 8, 2016

There’s going to be a demonstration tomorrow against a police and security industry trade expo at 5 O’clock in the afternoon. There have already been posters put up across London, showing a woman holding a placard explaining that despite being an elected member of the London Assembly, the police deemed her such a threat that the spied on her for ten years.

Mike over at Vox Political has a piccie of the posters, and quotes the organisers of the demonstration on their reasons for calling it. They state:

“Behind closed doors, the Home Office is hosting a three day shopping spree. Governments, police forces and military delegations from around the world can buy all the necessary equipment to support violent militarised policing, aggressive border controls and oppressive surveillance operations.

“Organised far from London, it provides a “discreet environment” for hundreds of companies who want to “display products which would be too sensitive to show in a more open environment”. Companies such as Serco who make a fat profit from the inhumane detention of thousands of refugees in centres like Yarls Wood; or weapons companies like BAE systems whose business is dependent on human suffering and continuous wars.

“The heavy policing of borders, militarisation of police, increased surveillance of civilians and high military spending do not improve security and they do not make any of us safer. They make the world a more dangerous place and we need to resist all of it.”

(My emphasis).

Mike’s article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/03/08/want-to-know-why-these-posters-have-started-appearing-theydontmakeussafer/

The organisers have a home page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/712863342183693/

Not being a Londoner, I have no idea who the woman in the photograph is. All I can say is that she looks White, of mature years, and entirely ordinary. Which I believe is the point. She does not look as if she belongs to any suspect ethnic or religious group, though it would be an example of the Met’s racism if they had unfairly spied on a Black or Asian person for the past decade, simply because of their ethnicity; or if it was a gay man or woman.

These are the merchants of death, and the industrial beneficiaries of the massive expansion of the surveillance state and the increasing diminution of the circle of freedom Brits now enjoy. The explanation includes references to Yarls Wood detention centre. That was the place, if I recall correctly, that was hit by riots a few years ago due to the inhuman and brutal treatment the detainees received at the hands of SERCO. I believe one person may even have been killed by a SERCO guard, thus provoking the disturbances.

As for BAE, they were caught several times by Private Eye trying to sell electric batons and riot shields at arms expos to those lovely, entirely democratic countries in the Middle East, with excellent human rights laws like Saudi Arabia. Such weapons are illegal under international law. And if they’re prepared to sell them to the Gulf Arab states, you wonder if they’re also prepared to secretly sell them to the government, especially after they’ve contributed to handsomely to Tory coffers over the years. And Cameron returned the compliment when he visited their factory in Wharton, where he boasted how he had sold ‘wonderful things’ to the bloody despots of the Middle East.

This is the civilian end of the military-industrial complex, and like the military, they don’t promise peace, but more conflict, suffering and bloodshed. And they are a continuing threat to traditional British freedom.