Some commentators seem to think that the NHS can survive as a national asset. If the Tories get back at GE17 then the NHS will become a privatised milchcow for the USA Health industry. It’s already nearly there.
I would like a hard-line Brexiter to give me one good reason for it. I don’t want to hear about immigration or making Britain great or Global UK. All that is pie in the sky, more spin, more hot air.
There will be no bonanza of jobs for jobless Britons; it will be years before we have a workforce able to take on existing low paid jobs. As for highly skilled jobs in our universities and health system there is no chance in the foreseeable future that we will not need skilled people from abroad. In fact Brexit could well reduce that workforce disastrously.
The big players, USA, China and the EU will extract their pound of flesh for every trade deal. The USA in particular has, ever since WWII, obtained the maximum benefit from any trade deals especially from the UK, think Lend-Lease.
So come on. What’s in it for us, the ordinary citizen of the UK?
The Poor Had No Lawyers by Andy Wightman and The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein catalogue the steady usurpation of power and wealth by the uber rich. I believe we are living through a particular explosion of that process. Klein highlights the method of taking advantage of crises by neo-liberals. The 2008 crisis gave a perfect opportunity to the Cameron-Osborne Tory government to do just that and to hasten the transference of power and state assets to the top 1%.
The continued existence of tax havens and the failure to catch tax dodging, the asset stripping and disruption of the NHS, TTIP, the privatising of the probation service and prisons are but a few examples of what is being done.
The 2015 General Election result did not feature in any of the pre-election scenarios so the rhetoric of the various campaigns becomes in some ways redundant.
A Tory majority gives Cameron a free hand. An SNP landslide could constrain him but will it? Best for Scotland would be some form of compromise which would allow the SNP Scottish Government wriggle room to pursue some of their anti-austerity agenda. This would give the SNP some credibility and pave the way for electoral success in the 2016 Holyrood elections. Would that suit the Tories? At worst they could hand Scotland a totally poisoned chalice of an imbalance of powers which if they are used will make the social and economic climate worse but if not used will leave the SNP with a loss of credibility.
So what should the 56 MPs and Nicola Sturgeon be negotiating for?
First and foremost the approach needs to be entirely pragmatic. Bandstanding on issues such as Trident will get them nowhere. Even the emasculated parliamentary Labour Party will not support that. We need to reduce the poverty and dependence of a significant proportion of the Scottish population. Not as Iain Duncan Smith would wish to do it. It will be a slow process but we have to start soon and somewhere. We need better education, not the academic variety but cultural and life-enhancing. Every young person leaving our education system should be kitted out with the skills to make a positive contribution and to be employable. It is a disgrace that we have so many young people unemployed or under employed. A decent society should have as a given that youngsters are able to find work when they leave education or training. Apart from their own well-being, leaving them unemployed for any length of time risks them becoming a permanent burden on society. Our population is getting older. We cannot afford not to make certain that all young people become usefully employed. It is in the self-interest of the older members of our society. Succeed with this and it follows that we can reduce the total costs of some benefits.
Tax Credits are a subsidy to employers not the benefit recipients. Scotland needs to control its own minimum wage. The money not spent on tax credits can be used to attract socially useful employers and to keep them in Scotland. Essentially we need manufacturing industries in the broadest sense; industries that produce goods which can be sold. It is clear that financial services do not bring benefits to the whole population and can cause havoc.
We need powers to make sure that we can gather all taxes due. We need to be able to close the many loopholes that allow the uber-rich and international corporations to avoid taxes.Some may depart abroad but if they are not paying taxes we might be better off without them.
We should be addressing our chronic housing problems. Cameron mentioned One Nation Conservatism. MacMillan, a true one nation Tory, oversaw the building of 200,000 houses per annum.
We need powers to protect the NHS from the effects of TTIP. In a Tory regime it is certain that the NHS will become entirely privatised and insurance based. What is more it will cost more. Our present NHS is not an expensive health service but it needs to be protected and nurtured.
Recent governments have played havoc with the pensions of many workers. We need the power to make certain that on retirement nobody falls into poverty. In a decent wealthy society such as Scotland there should be no need for any individual to be without shelter and food. In particular anybody in full time employment should not need a subsidy from the state to provide for their own and their family’s needs.
None of the above is unobtainable or unreasonable. However our new MPs must make certain that the powers granted under new Scotland Act actually allow us the freedom to achieve them.
This general election 2015 is being fought by two major parties on spurious grounds because it is not in either’s interest to speak of the real issues. Superficially Labour and Conservatives seem to have only marginal differences in policy and plans.
The electorate should be focusing on an entirely different and ideological difference between them. The current Tory hierarchy are firmly in the Chicago, Milton Friedman, School of economics. They are not pursuing austerity as a means of reducing the deficit. They are intent on rolling back the state and public sector and passing as much public provision of services into private ownership as possible. Naomi Klein in her book, The Shock Doctrine (2007) documents many instances of this ideological takeover of the public sector from South America to South Africa. One characteristic is that the Chicago School often take advantage of catastrophic events to move in; hence the excuse of the2007-8 financial crash was an absolute godsend to the Tories. Against that background the austerity is immaterial. What matters is privatising the state and reducing state funding of benefits and handouts. The squeeze on benefits by the present Department of Work and Pensions ministers will not be relaxed by them if they are still in power after the election even if there is an economic upturn. We are also largely ignorant of the true nature of TTIP and the dispute resolution mechanism. The present Conservative administration would never obstruct any piece of this Treaty that impeded the easy takeover of UK services by American and other foreign global corporations. The ultimate prize is the NHS in England, Wales and Scotland. Privatisation is of course well under way in England and Wales.
What does surprise me is that the Civil Service appear to be aiding and abetting this process as if they do not realise that their own jobs are already on the privatising list. It may be a bit farfetched but our armed forces could readily fit a privatised model much as private security companies came to dominate Iraq. The new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elisabeth could become HMS Serco Queen Elisabeth.
So a vote for Conservatives in May is a vote to hand Britain into the laps of the global corporations.
What of Labour? Well they should be socialist, even if only with a lower case s but their record when last in government was almost anything but. It was much more a continuation of the Thatcher years than the John Major interregnum. Both Blair and Brown played to the corporate gallery more than the working class stalls. Ed Balls has promised if he becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer to honour the recent Osbourne budget. What a contrast with the new Greek government who would sweep austerity away. It should be remembered that some of the elements of Tory austerity such as a clamp down on benefits, the laissez faire attitude to the financial sector, privatisation of some NHS services and the encouragement of the private sector generally were all started under Gordon Brown’s Chancellorship and of course Ed Balls was then his right-hand man. It could be that Ed Milliband is really much more of a socialist than New Labour but so far there is not much evidence of this. At best a vote for Labour might be a vote for Tory Lite.
So for Scots to vote for either main party might land them with a government which goes against the grain of Scottish ideas of a fair and caring society. While many voters might not agree with SNP aspirations and ambitions, they could be the only party to take cognisance of Scottish concerns and interests when voting in the Westminster parliament. So the bigger the bloc of SNP MPs the better will the Scottish perspective be kept on the agenda. For many English voters unaware of the true nature of the main parties a moderate left party with the people of Scotland as their main focus might also rescue English politics from the current Neoliberalism.
That the SNP tail might wag the English dog is of course pure scaremongering. Both Labour and the Conservatives saw how effective this tactic was in securing a No vote in the September referendum and so are using the same weapon again. The Liberal Democrats had but a marginal effect on the Tory juggernaut during the Coalition years. If Alex Salmond were the leader of an SNP bloc he would be more effective than Nick Clegg but he would wise to bend with the wind in many negotiations. At best he would be able to modify any extreme policies to protect Scottish interests. Jim Murphy on Politics Now (BBC 22nd March) told Andrew Neil that the SNP might oppose their policies eliminating zero hours contracts, an increase in the minimum wage etc. That was a ludicrous desperate suggestion. And don’t for one minute think that either main party would not get into bed with a big enough SNP bloc. In spite of what the leaders may now say they will understand that real politik will create strange bedfellows. They have to at least be seen to make a genuine attempt to run a 5 year parliament. The party that calls a very early election by rescinding the Five Year legislation will be slaughtered at the polls That piece of bravado might yet come back to bite David Cameron.
With the possibility of a hung parliament and looking at the present manifestoes of the main parties it is very much in Scottish interests to vote for SNP. There is a likelihood of this leading to Independence but, if Westminster politics does not change, that may happen with or without SNP help. There is much more of an appetite for Independence in Scotland than just within the SNP ranks. The Unionist parties did more to hasten that during the referendum campaign than anything the SNP did. Their actions brought home to many people quite how perfidious the political spin and in some cases downright lies and scaremongering has become. Many politicians seem to have no morals when it comes to saving their own skins.
11 Genomics Medical Centres are to be created by NHS England as announced this morning., http://www.bbc.com/news/health-30558112 .
On the Radio 4 Today programme the question was raised as to the security of patients private information. The glib answer was that it would be perfectly safe as it would be controlled by the NHS.
What failed to be said was that under this coalition / Tory government it would certainly go to a private company to run which would make it anything but safe I fear.
I have not written my blog since the referendum. I was so appalled by the result, so near and yet so far but more especially about how much of what I feared has since come true. So many No voters were plainly taken in by the propaganda of the Better Together campaign. Much has been written so I am not going to repeat it.
What the Smith Commission has come up with is a poisoned chalice as I suggested in August. Even Gordon Brown agrees with me. As Iain MacWhirter says “The cost of financing Scotland’s ageing population is being repatriated while.. means of growing the economy are reserved.’” This says it all in a nutshell. You just have to read tax expert Richard Murphy here to get the real story.
And I am also still worried about the NHS. The No campaign repeatedly and falsely claimed that it was safe. TTIP will make it completely vulnerable.
We should realise that Osborne’s Austerity is more than just a hopeful plan to re-balance the economy. Milton Friedman is, years after his death, an icon for the far right neolib / neocon economists and politicians. Naomi Kemp in her book “Shock Doctrine” draws attention to their deliberate opportunism in taking advantage of catastrophes to further their idea of minimal state intervention, preferably none at all, in the running of an economy. Osborne and his friends see our present financial situation as an ideal time to drive down the public services. It is a measure of his ineffectualness that more has not been sold off already. But given the chance in May 2015 they will continue to privatise all parts of the public services which can be turned into a source of private profit.