I’m writing this as 2013 is about to give way to 2014. Not a particularly good year for me, 2013 was nevertheless a time of massive change.
The biggest change I witnessed in Britain was that money was finally confirmed as the single most important consideration. Maybe that had always been true, but now the media accepts it as fact. BBC News, for example, has subtly changed its emphasis from being generally humanitarian to financially-centric. If a hospital runs out of money, it has to close. You can’t get aid to the scene of a tragedy without first having an emergency appeal. The government has to make cuts so the poor and disabled are the first to lose out. Big business, on the other hand, has to be encouraged by tax incentives. The days of the largely benevolent state seem to be over.
A decade ago someone would have asked “Why?” and the “Why?” would have been widely reported. Not any more. Today the underlying tone is one of acceptance. The financial truth is The Truth… health, humanitarian and other concerns are now seen as largely irrelevant.
In just a few years, the Conservative government and its Lib-Dem poodles have altered the BBC out of all recognition. The top man since 2011 is old-style Tory Christopher “Lord Patten of Barnes” (the man responsible for implementing “Poll Tax”), who was put in by David Cameron to replace out-going grammar school boy, Michael Lyons. Most of the key “grass roots” contributors, Nick Robinson, Evan Davies, Sarah Montague et al have backgrounds in banking and/or the Tory party. And still the comments on the Daily Mail website are full of claims of left-wing bias. Even Conservative Chairman Grant Shapps feels the need to shoot a pre-Election warning over the BBC’s bows.
To be fair, the BBC is just catching up with the rest of the media, who’ve been ardent supporters of “the System” for a long time. There is an argument that because of the Licence Fee, the BBC should reflect the opinions and attitude of those who are paying the bills. Let’s hope that never comes to pass. Far better would be a return to a vague impartiality, fuelled by knowledge and intelligence. The direct opposite of the way the Daily Mail operates.
It’s fair to say that my politics lean slightly to the Left. I’ve recently rejoined the Labour Party after twenty years in the wilderness. I left because I wasn’t happy with Neil Kinnock’s attempts at “modernisation”. I was appalled that a Labour leader could lie about the supposed hold Militant had on Liverpool City Council, with all the nonsense about “taxis delivering redundancy notices to its own workers”. Then Tony Blair forced us into war and sold us further down the river of Privatisation, PPL (Public-Private Partnerships) and Middle England, before Gordon Brown somehow allowed the boat to catch fire and sink.
I rejoined Labour after the 2010 election fiasco and voted for Ed Miliband as leader in the hope he’d lead the party back onto the right-track. (For “right track” read “left track”). I get the feeling poor Ed really wants to do the right thing (for “right thing” read “left thing”), but the Labour Party hierarchy is so terrified of upsetting Daily Mail and Sun readers, he’s holding back. In my book, if the weasels who run these so-called “newspapers” approve of anything the Labour Party does, then it’s a policy that should be scrapped immediately.
No one I’ve spoken to recently thinks the water and energy companies shouldn’t be renationalised. It used to be accepted that certain entities should be run for the benefit of the user, and not for profit. Gas, Electricity and Water are the three key utilities and most people in this country don’t like the way they are being distributed and sold. Prices keep rising, service falling, whilst directors, managers and shareholders take ever bigger slices of the pie.
Take water as a case in point. Following privatisation we had a period of water shortages, drought and hosepipe bans, which encouraged the need for prices to rise. Now we have floods and too much water: plus calls from the foreign-owned privateers for more government subsidy and higher bills. In Paris privatisation was proved not to work and after a year of being back in public control, prices fell by between 5% and 10%.
Despite what they tell us, the system we have in Britain works for the benefit of private enterprise at the expense of public interest. I got an email on Christmas Eve to say that Co-operative Energy are no longer allowed to include what I pay them in my Co-op Group dividend share of the profits (currently one membership point for every £1 I spend). This is because of a ruling by energy regulator Ofgem, who, according to their website “work in the interests of consumers”. Interesting how they believe penalising members of a co-operative can be in the interests of consumers. More in the interests of the other energy companies, I’d say. Did you hear anything about this on the news or in the newspapers? No, though I did forward the email to the BBC’s Robert Peston, who obviously didn’t think it worth reporting on.
In the Right-leaning USA, where it’s practically legal to shoot Communists, Socialists and anyone otherwise opposed to Capitalism, most of the major airports, including JFK, O’Hare and LAX are publicly-owned. In Britain, Baroness Thatcher saw that ours, as well as the air traffic controllers, were all put into private hands. Heathrow Airport, for instance, is currently owned by a company controlled by shareholders from Spain, Singapore and Canada. This same company also owns and operates Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen Airports, as well as the Heathrow Express and most of the Heathrow Connect train companies.
If the Labour Party want to stand a chance of winning the next General Election, they’ve really got to be more radical and set up a positive alternative to the bland one-and-a-half party system we seem to be stuck with. No one (aside from David Cameron, George Osborne and the turncoat Vince Cable) could be happy at the profitable Royal Mail being sold off to private investors for half of its true value. This will be especially true when the inevitable job losses and service cuts are announced. And yet Labour’s response was little more than a wishy-washy “oh dear” in case anyone brought up the fact that Labour were planning to privatise Royal Mail anyway.
Something’s got to change. We can’t go on like we are. 2014 is unlikely to be the year Britain reverses its moral and ethical decline, but hopefully we’ll see a start.
Happy New Year!