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Privatisation is stealing British society. Where Thatcher gladly admitted that society had died, David Cameron has hidden the theft of Britain’s public sector under the ‘Big Society’ banner. Of course, the very notion of the big society is an example of political newspeak at its finest. Cameron’s ‘society’ is not one in which the public supports its members via public-owned services. It is rather a resurrection of the Victorian idea that social support should be doled out at the mercy of the rich. Support society if you want, the government seems to be saying, but don’t expect any help from us. Thus, the coalition continues to destroy the very services which for years have upheld society, whilst continuing with slogans which profess the opposite.
This is symptomatic of the current government and, indeed, of modern mainstream politics across the spectrum. The slogan says one thing; the policies another.
This is one of the biggest dangers in modern politics- being taken in by the liberal façade adopted by the political elite. The Tories, New Labour and the Lib Dems have all gladly adopted a progressive social policy in recent years. Meanwhile, their economic policies have moved further and further to the right. Modern British politics couples a liberal elitism with an extremely right-wing economic policy that destroys any semblance of society as we once knew it. Like an international corporation masking its faults in slick advertising campaigns, the three main parties disguise their economic policy behind a progressive mask.
This modern danger is a double edged sword. Firstly, it paves the way for any of those not adopting the liberal façade of the three main parties being judged as altruistic by default. Nigel Farage is apparently considered a plain-talking man of the people. That is, public school educated, former banker, man of the people; the son of stockbroker, Guy Justus Oscar Farage.
The other, far greater, danger is that the extent of the destruction caused by our government is allowed to be completely overlooked. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the ruthless drive towards privatisation and the de-valuation of public owned services. Under the guise of investing in business and rejuvenating the economy, our current government have created a nation in which private companies are funded and subsidised by the state. The dichotomy between private and public sector is a false one: both are now funded by the taxpayer. Whilst it is businesses that own academy chains, those same academies receive billions of pounds in government funding. Meanwhile, state schools are pitted against each other in league tables, facing ever-increasing pressures and spending cuts. The banks and businesses which created the economic crisis are bailed out at a cost of £850 Billion to the UK taxpayer, whilst disabled benefits claimants are forced into workfare schemes. The privatisation of council housing leads to homes, which were built by and for the taxpayer, being sold off to wealthy, private landlords. Whether in education, transport, housing or healthcare, privatisation now simply means that the public continues to pay for what the public no longer owns.
‘Competition’ is one of the mantras of big business and Tory governments alike. Yet, in modern Britain, privatised industries are not competitive: competition implies the possibility of losing. Time and time again, businesses, banks and corporations which have failed under the free market have been propped up and recovered by the tax payer. Under our government, banks and big business are allowed to view public money as a safety net. They may continue to recklessly gamble any profits; if they make a mistake, the taxpayer foots the bill. At the same time, it is the public sector which is being forced to become increasingly competitive. Schools, hospitals and the police force have been driven to contend with increasingly contrived targets whilst resources are cut. This can only be considered socialism, or benefits for the rich; competitive capitalism for the rest.
The mass privatisation enacted under the current government has left a shell of a society, in which workfare programmes receive free labour from those subsidised by state benefits. This is a society in which the poorest, most deprived members have been represented as a drain on the economy, whilst bankers receive 35% pay rises. This is a society in which education can increasingly be viewed as little more than an indulgence for the upper and middle classes. The coupling of extortionate fees and extremely high pass rates effectively mean that most professional qualifications are commodities to be purchased by those who can afford it. This is a society in which the NHS may focus up to 50% of its resources on private patients. This is a nation in which the public sector and the society it sought to create, is being stolen and sold off to private interests. This is a society which is being dismantled and auctioned to the highest bidder.
JOHN NEWSHAM 27/10/2014