It’s not public services or NHS that needs Tory ‘liberation’, but failures in the private sector

You have to hand it to the Tories, they really do have infernal brass neck (No, I’m not referring to Lord Young helpfully reminding us that the Tory upper classes don’t do recessions, only their commoner subjects who they may not notice below their ken).   I’m referring to the Cabinet Office Minhister, Francis Maude, announcing that he wants to “liberate public sector workers” by setting up mutuals to replace public services.   Shades of Lansley, Health Minister, earlier issuing a White Paper cheekily entitled ‘Liberating the NHS’ by setting up 500 (mandatory) GP consortia.   Leave aside that in both cases this verbal sleight-of-hand represents a prelude to full-scale privatisation.   Leave aside that people don’t want to be ‘liberated’ when it means greater insecurity, loss of State-supported pension rights, and possible buy-outs.   The real point is that neither public sector workers nor the doctors want to be liberated from profoundly important services they deeply believe in.

But, since they mention it,  maybe there is a place for this ‘liberation’ idea.   Why doesn’t the Labour Party lead a campaign to liberate private sector workers who are subjected to dirt-poor wages, menial working conditions, poor management, job insecurity, and lack of opportunity (and reward) for improving their organisation?   Just as the last Labour Government set up a valuable fund to provide seed money for small new businesses, why shouldn’t the next Labour Government equally provide funding for private sector workers to buy out their employers where they can provide a business plan to show they can manage the enterprise better themselves?  

There’s another point here too.   The Tory argument is that all organisations should be run efficiently, and so they should be.   But they should be run efficiently not to maximise profits for the employer, but rather to achieve all the objectives that good companies should meet.   That includes high labour standards and enhancement of human capital, protecting the environment including minimising carbon emissions and reducing waste and pollution, as well as commitments to the local community.   The next Labour Government should tax companies strictly in accordance with how they meet these criteria. 

Moreover since the market has dramatically failed in banking, pensions, housing, transport and energy,  the next Labour Government should bring in a major element of public sector competition in each of these strategic areas, if not in some cases restore a majority of public ownership.   The collapse of  market fundamentalism demonstrates starkly and painfully that a new post-neoliberal economic model is now urgently needed, and that can only involve a major extension of  public sector principles.

3 thoughts on “It’s not public services or NHS that needs Tory ‘liberation’, but failures in the private sector

  1. And while we are at it, the next Labour government should nationalise the NHS.

    I am not joking. Lansley’s plans are that by 2015 ALL NHS hospitals will be taken out of public ownership as “social enterprises”. Ignore the “social” in the title, it was put there to make you think that it is what it isn’t. A “social enterprise” is a private company, pure and simple, it can be taken over and it can merge. It is NOT publicly owned.

    Lansley will not hand hospitals over to their “employee-led social enterprises” for free. The “employees” (ie the management) will have to buy them. Ever wondered where the Tory tax cut will come from for the run-up to the 2015 election? Yup, it will come from the sell-off of the NHS hospitals.

    What we need is for Ed Miliband to make a simple announcement right now (OK, Monday will do). All he needs to say is that the next Labour government will do a “Network Rail” so those City investors who invest in these “social enterprise” hospitals will find that they have a Railtrack – ie, they will lose their investment with no compensation.

    Miliband will be able to do this because the Conservative government have no mandate to sell-off hospitals. They did not say that they would do this in their manifesto and did not campaign for it. Miliband will simply be saying that he will do what the majority of the voters want: a publicly owned NHS.

  2. Thank you for your comments. I totally agree that these plans for the NHS are seriously worrying and that the idea of ‘social enterprises’ goes against all that the National Health Service represents.

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