The public has never been supportive of privatisation – it was forced on them, not chosen by them – but even business has begun to have second thoughts. Not of course for the right reasons, but even in terms of their own narrow interests. Their concerns are to treat privatisation as a money machine, but they’re finding out the profits are draining away. Thus the sharp rise in NHS outsourcing 2012-4 has now come to an abrupt halt after a whole series of failed or botched contracts dented confidence in the private sector. Serco has decided to pull out of healthcare services in the UK after it manipulated data on GP services in Cornwall and was accused of poor performance on a £140m contract to run community care services in Suffolk. The same is happening at Peterborough in Cambridgeshire. This has led to the stopgap measure of hiring more expensive temporary staff, the worst outcome possible – with their cost rising by a third to £3.4bn last year. And the number of mega-tenders, where the private sector is given control of entire hospitals, has also shrunk.
Carney is now warning that the risk of ‘stranded assets’ shows why investors should divest from fossil fuels. Again that’s nothing to do with the proper and necessary reasons for divestment, but it’s still happening anyway. Even the Bank of England now accepts that if the world is to meet the 2 degrees target, the carbon budget amounted to between a fifth and a third of the world’s proven reserves of oil, gas and coal, leaving the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’. It won’t make money any more. For the same reason Shell has finally abandoned oil exploration in the Arctic, not because it is the last pristine wilderness in the world, but because having spent a staggering $8bn with nothing to show for it but a dry well, they have had to accept the economic inevitability.
Perhaps most significant of all, the chair of Lloyd’s of London has pronounced at an assembly of top financiers that extreme executive pay and malpractice by by big business are undermining confidence in global capitalism. That was obvious a decade or more ago, but even the business elite are now recognising that there is a “definite shift in the attitudes of populations round the world towards business”. The Corbyn project may not find the resistance in the City and the FTSE-100 as entrenched as many critics expect, and the tide may be starting to go out for Osborne and the Tory press.