The Confederation of British Industry has started its usual pre-election campaign against the Labour Party – with the usual nonsense claims about Labour nationalisation policies.
It seems we are being asked to believe that bringing national utilities, the railways and the Royal Mail back into public ownership will cost the Treasury £196 billion, with no concurrent benefits to the economy.
I have to agree with Labour on this; it is nothing but scaremongering – and not very clever scaremongering, at that.
For a start, most of the utilities and railway firms Labour wants to take back into public ownership are currently owned by foreign firms – many of them owned by foreign governments.
That’s a lot of UK citizens’ money going abroad, right there. Bringing those firms back into public ownership would bring huge amounts of money back into the UK economy, instead of subsidising services in other lands.
We have been led to believe that Vince Cable sold our Royal Mail to hedge funds. Who knows where they’re putting the profits? That cash certainly doesn’t seem to be going back into the business. A tax haven, perhaps?
If so, then bringing the Royal Mail back into public ownership not only safeguards our postal service but brings huge amounts of money back into the UK economy.
That’s just off the top of my head.
The CBI admits its analysis is flawed, in that it only concentrates on the costs of any renationalisation, and explicitly does not consider any benefits.
The claims of this organisation have no value at all.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
This is interesting, from Eoin Clarke’s Facebook page:
“Page 98 of the Tory NHS Act 2012 makes NHS Privatisation possible because it opens up the NHS to EU Competition Law. This means that when the NHS tenders a contract it is legally obliged to invite bids from the private sector.
“Reversing this was always going to be very difficult for a Labour government. £40 billion of NHS contracts have been handed to the private sector and some of them for up to 15 years.
“Now that Britain is leaving the EU, it is much easier to stop this.
“Overnight, the NHS Act becomes null and void.
“There is no need for the NHS to comply with EU Competition Law. It would require another Act to enshrine UK Competition Law into the NHS.
“Also, it becomes much easier for a subsequent Labour government to reverse NHS privatisation. We would no longer be in breach of EU Competition Law.
“The same is true of renationalising the railways now.”
It occurs to me that the plan to enshrine all EU law onto the UK statute books, and then simply dispose of whatever the Conservatives don’t like, may create an obstacle to Dr Clarke’s suggestion.
But I think the point is that it is much easier to change UK law – as a Labour government could, once it comes into office – than EU law.
It continues: “The wholly unexpected obstacle to Cooper’s ambition to be Labour’s first female leader is the hard-left Jeremy ‘Jez We Can’ Corbyn.”
So Jeremy Corbyn is “extreme”, is he? He’s “hard-left”? When was that decided?
Most rational thinkers in the UK now accept that Corbyn is absolutely not “extreme” or “hard-left”. He’s left-wing in the classical Labour mould, in line with most of Labour’s loyal membership. If labels like “extreme”, or “hard” are to be applied anywhere, they would more properly belong with fellow candidates Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and especially Liz Kendall, whose attitudes – in Labour terms – would be described most accurately as “hard-right“.
The text itself makes no mention of Corbyn – he’s just a handy peg on which the sub-editors have hung a headline. The author, Daniel Boffey, accepts that Labour could not be at full strength while the future leader is unnamed and shadow cabinet members have no idea whether they are likely to remain in their posts.
“I think we should talk about what the objectives of the party are, whether that’s restoring clause IV as it was originally written or it’s a different one,” is what Corbyn actually said.
He’s telling the country that, as Labour leader, he would listen to the wishes of his supporters and work to give them what they want.
That’s better than Burnham, Cooper and Kendall rolled together – and much more than the likes of David Cameron, Boris Johnson or George Osborne would ever willingly provide (although we know that their offers aren’t worth the air used to speak them or the paper on which they are written).
This Blog is happy to support Jeremy Corbyn – if only for one simple reason:
He is the only Labour leadership candidate to have shown any support for the Early Day Motion calling for the Conservative Government to publish statistics on the deaths of Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance claimants (EDM 285).
In fact, he co-sponsored it.
It was signed by 93 other MPs in the week or so between its creation and the day Parliament went into recess for the summer. I’ve been reminded that Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall cannot sign EDMs because they are members of the shadow cabinet and are barred from doing so. Why haven’t they spoken in favour of it, then? How many of their supporters have signed it?
What does that say about those other leadership candidates?
Does it not tell us that they are happy to collude with the Conservatives in keeping the casualties hidden?
And here’s another good question:
Why aren’t newspapers like The Guardian asking Burnham, Cooper and Kendall about that, rather than stirring up non-existent muck about Corbyn?
Five-time Parliamentary ‘Beard of the Year’ – the likeable Jeremy Corbyn.
If any of you have been struggling to work out whether you know anything at all about Jeremy Corbyn, you are not alone!
This Writer has also been at something of a loss with regard to his personality and achievements.
So let’s all be grateful to Owen Jones, who knows Mr Corbyn well, for scribbling a few details into his latest Guardiancomment piece.
According to Owen, Mr Corbyn is:
The very antithesis of the negative caricature of an MP: he’s defined by his principles and beliefs, uninterested in personal self-advancement, and determined to use his platform to further the interests of people and causes that are otherwise ignored.
One of the most likable MPs – and a five-time winner of Parliamentary Beard of the Year.
A proponent of peace, a staunch internationalist (he was protesting against Saddam Hussein when the west was arming him), a fervent believer in workers’ rights, and an opponent of austerity whoever peddles it
Not only does he seem exactly what we’re looking for, he even seems to fit what people in this nation genuinely want, as Owen explains:
“According to the polls, millions of Britons support a living wage, a radical house building programme, public ownership of utilities and services and higher taxes on the rich… Given their widespread backing, these policies surely at least need a hearing in the leadership contest of the dominant, purportedly left-of-centre party in Britain.”
In conclusion, this blog can only echo the article’s final words:
“If Labour MPs deny the party and the country a genuine debate, it will reflect disastrously on them. It will do whoever emerges victorious no good, either. Labour has just suffered one of the worst defeats in its history. If the party doesn’t have the good sense to have a meaningful debate now, you might wonder why it doesn’t just pack up. So come on, Labour MPs. Put your future careers aside for party and national interest.
“Lend Corbyn a nomination, and let a real debate begin.”
Off the rails: Should railway companies be renationalised in the national interest?
A group of 15 Labour MPs have issued a public statement this morning, expressing concern about elements of Labour’s policy agenda, and urging a change of course in three key areas, according to LabourList.
The letter – signed by MPs on the left of the Parliamentary Labour Party – calls for an alternative to Labour’s current deficit reduction plans, public ownership of the railways and a return to collective bargaining and employment rights in the workplace.
Here’s the statement in full, which outlines the signatories preferred alternative approach:
1 An alternative to the continuation of austerity and spending cuts till 2019-20
All three main parties, tragically, seem to agree that deep spending cuts must continue to be made until the structural budget deficit is wiped out in 2019-20, even though wages have already fallen 8% in real terms, business investment is still below pre-crash levels, unemployment is still 2million, the trade deficit in manufactured goods at over £100bn is now the largest in modern history, and household debt is now over £2trillion and still rising.
The Tories want to continue with these cuts because it gives them political cover to achieve their real objective which is to shrink the State and squeeze the public sector back to where it was in the 1930s.
It isn’t even as though the deficit is being reduced by these savage cuts. Because the reduction in the government’s tax revenues as a result of shrinking incomes exceed the spending cuts, the deficit (which is still nearly £100bn) is likely to rise, not fall, in 2014-15 and in future years.
There is an alternative way out of endless austerity. We need public investment to kickstart the economy out of faltering growth and to generate real job creation and rising incomes.
It can readily be funded. With interest rates at 0.5%, a £30bn investment package can be financed for just £150m a year, enough to create more than a million real jobs within 2-3 years. And even without any increase in public borrowing at all, the same sum could equally be funded either through the two banks which are already in public ownership, or through printing money (quantitative easing) to be used directly for industrial investment rather than for bond-buying by the banks as hitherto, or through taxing the ultra-rich by a special levy.
2 Returning rail franchises when expired to public ownership rather than subjecting them to competition
The essence of rail reform must be to reverse fragmentation, to reintegrate the system under public ownership, and to run it in the public interest. At present Britain has the highest fares in Europe. The additional costs of privatisation to public funds are estimated at more than £11bn, or around £1.2bn a year, so that the costs to the taxpayer are now three times as much as under British Rail.
Since 2010 rail fares have increased 25%, yet at the same time more than £200m a year has been paid out in dividends to shareholders or overseas state-owned rail companies which now hold two-thirds of the current rail franchises. Over 80% of the public want the railways re-nationalised, which must include a significant proportion of Tories.
The most obvious and simplest way to achieve this is by letting the rail franchises expire and then taking them back into public ownership at no cost whatever to the taxpayer. To subject them to a public bidding competition with private bidders is not only wholly unnecessary but sends out the wrong signals, as though we’re not confident of our own ideology. The Tories certainly didn’t offer a competitive option when they forced through privatisation!
Anyway, the franchise process, so far from being economic, encourages the gaming of wildly optimistic passenger number projections and this, combined with huge legal contract complexity which is bureaucratic and wasteful both in time and money (except for the lawyers and accountants), has led in the past to franchise failures and operating chaos, most notably on the East and West Coast lines. From past experience public ownership has consistently worked better, and we should not gratuitously throw obstacles in our own path in getting there.
3 The need for the restoration of collective bargaining and employment rights as a check against excessive corporate power
When the Thatcher government came to office in 1979, 82% of workers in the UK had their main terms and conditions determined by a union-negotiated collective agreement. The latest figures now show that the coverage is down to just 23%. One very significant result is that the share of national income going to salaries and wages has fallen dramatically from 65% in 1980 to 53% in 2012 – a loss to employees of some £180bn!
This has happened partly from the collapse in trade union membership from 55% of the workforce in 1979 to 23% in 2012. But it has also happened partly as a result of the anti-trade union laws introduced in the 1980-90s and partly because the state has withdrawn support for collective bargaining as part of the free market ideology of de-regulation of all markets, including the labour market. It is somewhat ironic however that de-regulation of the labour market requires the tightest regulation of one of the key players in that market, the trade union movement.
An incoming Labour government should choose to enhance the role of trade unions because trade union rights are human rights, a trade union presence creates more just and equal workplaces, and trade union collective bargaining is more redistributive than statutory wage setting and will assist on the road from austerity. We should therefore actively promote sectoral collective bargaining and strengthen the rights of trade unions to recognition, and of their members to representation.
He’s absolutely correct, of course. To hammer the point home, the Angry Yorkshireman has provided us with the following – visual – indication of just what a small drop in an extremely deep ocean this money would be:
The real answer wouldn’t be clear to a privateer like Osborne, which is why he should go back to folding towels.
Eurostar must remain a public asset!
When the UK government has a massive debt to pay off, the idea of selling a profit-making enterprise indicates stupidity of earth-shaking proportions!
You keep Eurostar and use its profits to pay off your debts!
While you’re at it, there are a few other profitable concerns you should be nationalising, too.
Osborne is a child, trying to do a grown-up’s job.
Rachel Reeves: Look on the bright side – at least she isn’t Liam Byrne.
Was anyone else underwhelmed by Rachel Reeves’ speech in this years Labour conference?
Not by the promise to take the Bedroom Tax off the statute books, obviously. That has been a settled part of Labour policy since, well, since it landed on the statute books back in 2012. We should not take it for granted, though – and we must always remember that the Bedroom Tax won’t be going anywhere if the Blue Meanies manage to hang on to control after May next year.
But is anybody really convinced by her ‘Jobs Guarantee’? Is it really likely to work, or is it just another ‘make-work’ scheme? What difference will it make if private companies running the current work programme/mandatory work activity/workfare/whatever-they’re-called-today schemes are replaced by local councils and communities? Vox Political is based in Powys and the council here wouldn’t know how to help anybody get back into work off the back of any such scheme. Why should it be different elsewhere?
Do we really need a ‘Basic Skills Test’? Isn’t that an indictment of our education system – and shouldn’t that be where the skills gap ought to be tackled?
Did chills go up anybody else’s spine when Reeves mentioned a “pensions market“? Do we need a pensions market? Do you want to have to shop around for the best pension for you? Don’t you pay your National Insurance for the government to sort out that side of things and not make a mess of it?
And what did she mean by “tailored support” for disabled people who can work? By whose standards?
What did you make of her comments about the work capability assessment? “We need real reform”, she said. No! We don’t need reform! We need to scrap it altogether! It has never been fit for purpose; it never will be. The very word “assessment”, linked to a person’s sickness or disability, is tainted beyond reform. All that is necessary – all that has ever been necessary – is written confirmation of a person’s condition from – guess who? – a doctor. Work capability assessments are a waste of money and a risk to the health of sick and disabled people.
She said: “I give you this commitment: as Secretary of State I will come down hard on any contractor that gets these critical assessments wrong, or fails to treat disabled people with the decency and respect they deserve.” Do you think any such contractor was quaking in their boots at the thought of that? No.
What is she going to do about the Tories’ vindictive ‘mandatory reconsideration’ system? Will she agree to pay benefits to claimants while they await a decision, or will she forget them like the Tories forgot the ex-Remploy workers she mentioned in her speech?
She said Universal Credit was “stuck in first gear” – but made no promise to get rid of it. Its aim, under Tory control, is to ensure the government doesn’t have to spend as much money on benefit claimants. Even if Labour changes that – after it has been made to work at all, which is a hard battle in itself – there will be no way to stop the Tories changing it back into a weapon if the public ever becomes stupid enough to vote them back into office again. It would be far better to devise a scheme that the Tories could not pervert – difficult though such a task may be.
There was more good material than the Bedroom Tax, and it would be wrong to gloss over that. The plan to increase the Living Wage is good, and so is the plan to increase the minimum wage. But critics say the minimum wage provides employers with an excuse to reduce all pay to that still-paltry amount, so why isn’t she saying Labour will combat that? Labour could encourage companies to become employee-owned co-operatives; as co-owners, workers could ensure equitable rates of pay. These measures would go a long way to eliminating the “in-work benefit” element of the social security bill.
Labour should be going further, though. It should be renationalising railway firms that aren’t performing well enough, either by overcharging passengers, failing to invest in the service or simply demanding too high a subsidy from the taxpayer. These firms are supposed to be private – if we are still supporting them, we should still own them. At least, that way, we’d get the profits rather than some faceless shareholder.
Also on the nationalisation list should be power companies and water firms. The energy business seems to be a cartel, organised to screw customers out of as much money as possible – on pain of losing the power necessary to heat and light their homes, and cook their food. That must end. Whatever contract they were given when they were privatised, they have reneged on the deal and should be brought back under public control.
As for the water firms – they’re just tax avoidance schemes, aren’t they? Also, Yr Obdt Srvt seems to recall that one firm sold around 25 reservoirs to France, so they get the benefit of our water during hot summers while we have to suffer drought. That’s not why these firms were sold off. They should come back under public control, with stiff penalties for the shareholders who have abused the public trust.
Come to that, what about the construction industry? We need hundreds of thousands more homes – especially one- and two-bedroomed dwellings – to be defined as social housing, in order to stave off more Tory “captive victim” schemes like the Bedroom Tax. Why won’t the government employ the builders to carry out this work, starting on brown-field sites and avoiding green belt land, for the sake of the future?
Investment in work of this kind could revive the UK’s fortunes in a stroke – and would infinitely improve Labour’s offer to the public. The Attlee government did far more, starting from a far worse financial position so there is no reason to hesitate.
Virgin trains is just one of the companies currently using Network Rail lines.
You may find the headline a misnomer as the things Mr Little has to say are, in fact, extremely informative! Here’s a taste:
Here’s the first of three blogs on three arguments I often hear people on the left make and why I think they are unhelpful. An example of the first argument comes from today’s Guardian in a piece by a columnist whose work I like a lot.
I’m not sure it is. For starters, it’s exactly the argument those on the right often use to scare us about government debt with the aim of getting us to accept austerity. Here’s an example of this. Repeating this line just reinforces people’s fear of government debt. In what sense does each UK citizen ‘owe’ a portion of the national debt? When people think about their own debt, they know that they need to keep up the repayments or they may have to forfeit goods (or even their home) to repay the debt. Failure to pay could even lead to bankruptcy. This is not true of government debt though. There is no burden on individual citizens to repay this debt. We pay taxes, but this is not linked to repayment of government debt, and if we lose our jobs, we don’t have to keep paying tax at the same level as before. Government debt is also a private asset. Holders of government debt tend to be pension funds. So anyone with a pension is also ‘owed’ government debt. So that £539 you owe for Network Rail is owed partly (or mostly or wholly depending on the size of your pension) to yourself. Doesn’t sound a lot like a debt in the commonly understood way.
Of course the argument does give rise to the question of how we should respond to the return of Network Rail into the public sector.
Vox Political would advocate the view that we should welcome the re-nationalisation of the railway network as it not only brings this valuable system back into public hands, where it belongs, but it also makes it possible to regulate the discounts given to private rail companies who are paying to use the track. In this way, it should be possible to control badly-performing companies – or indeed eliminate them from participation in providing the service. This will also help stop public money from draining into private, fat-cat bank accounts (that are probably offshore somewhere).
Not only that, but all this talk about nationalisation and stopping money from draining into private hands will really annoy our unelected Tory (and Tory ‘Democrat’) government.
Wise words: The ‘People’s Assembly’ hopes to stir people out of their apathy and encourage them to oppose the unelected and unmandated right-wing, ideologically-driven and austerity-led destruction of British society. Are you interested, or is it too much like hard work?
“The people are not ready to embrace Socialism and may never be ready.”
“What, a cobbled together bunch of leftie socialists?”
“It will take more than a few breakfast TV celebrity socialists turning up in community centres to shake people awake, and armchair socialism – like conservatism, capitalism, fascism, communism and any other political ism that involves a minority seeking to impose its will on the masses down at their local community hall – is the last thing that anyone needs.”
“It would just be a talking shop of unelected and ‘celebrity’ allegedly left-wingers, who like to hear the sound of their own voices. It does not have any democratic structure, and would just be a sort of an admiring glee club, that would allow its supporters to have the illusion that something is being done.”
“Even if you got five million people to march through London protesting over the austerity program, the Palace of Westminster wouldn’t hear it.”
These are just a few of the negative responses to a recent article by Owen Jones, on the forthcoming meeting of the ‘People’s Assembly’, organised by the new socialist organisation Left Unity. None of them are saying anything we haven’t heard before. It seems the constant refrain, to which the British people sing along, is “Don’t bother trying to change it; there’s nothing you can do”.
This is, of course, lazy nonsense. You hear it from people who genuinely can’t be bothered and, more perniciously, from supporters of the status quo (in this case, the Coalition or UKIP) who know that a discouraging word at the right moment can nip a potential rival organisation in the bud. It’s called conditioned helplessness, and I’ve discussed it before.
Remember, the ‘People’s Assembly’ has not had its first meeting yet. Already people are trying to tell us it is a failure, a “talking shop” for “armchair socialism” that would not be heard in the corridors of power.
I wish I could attend, but geographical issues and other responsibilities mean this is impossible (I live in Wales and have responsibilities as a carer).
One thing we should all remember is that this is a socialist movement, not the creation of a political party. We already have a democratic socialist political party, although our Labour members of Parliament seem to have forgotten that (here’s a clue, folks: Read the top line on the back of your membership cards). They appear to be taking the soft option and following the Coalition narrative. But that’s no reason to let them get on with it.
It seems to me that the ‘People’s Assembly’, like the Left Unity organisation that is staging the event, will work best putting pressure on systems that are already in place. Labour presents the best chance we have for ousting the Tories and their little yellow helpers, without putting something equally right-wing in their place. People of good faith just need to encourage the Party to do the right thing.
And that is: Ditch all the idiotic follow-my-Tory-leader austerity-driven policies announced in recent weeks. Austerity has failed as a way of balancing the books; it was never intended to do so in the first place. Ditch the divisive Tory-soundalike rhetoric that shows Labour also wants to blame the poor for problems that they never created. Clear private sector ‘advisors’ out of Labour Party meetings and thinktanks – corporate influence will only benefit corporations and their shareholders; they have the Conservatives for that.
Devise new policies for health, workplace safety and social security that will aim to prevent not only workplace-related sickness and disability, but also congenital conditions that blight lives. That will bring down the bills for health and social security far more than misplaced attempts to punish those whose ill-health is already an unjust punishment, as they have not committed any crime.
Reconsider policies relating to business. Labour has long since admitted that nationalisation of all industry does not work, and it doesn’t. But there are some services that should be run – as a business, perhaps, but under the authority of the state – in the national interest. These are the public utilities – water, electricity, gas. Possibly rail transport as well, because the current privatised situation is costing the taxpayer far more than when the service was nationalised.
Encourage self-employment where practical. People can only be assured of the ability to sustain themselves if they own the means of production. The best way to do that is to work for themselves. For businesses involving more than a single trader, encourage mutualism or co-operatives. This is the best way to ensure that all workers get the most benefit from the products of their labours. With employees encouraged to put more effort into their trade by the promise of getting more out of it, progress towards meeting and exceeding the Living Wage seems more likely.
And support new technologies, especially those that are environmentally-friendly. This is where many of the new jobs will be generated and the UK has delayed its support of these advances for far too long.
I don’t think these are impossible ambitions.
They can be achieved if the progressive members of British society get their act together and stand up for them. And let’s all admit it, they would be much healthier than the cuts that have spawned a continuing storm of protest ever since the Coalition first inflicted them upon us, just because most of us are poorer than they are.
People are realising that they can’t expect their political representatives to do the right thing without being told what it is. What’s holding them back is the concern that this is a minority view. That is why they may welcome an umbrella organisation like Left Unity and the ‘People’s Assembly’, to show them they’re not alone.
I would like to say that in Central Hall, Westminster, on Saturday but I can’t be there.
Would anybody like to say it for me – or something better?
Or shall we all just sit back in our armchairs and mutter, while the country goes to hell in a handbasket?
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