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Kerry-anne Mendoza is a writer, blogger and activist. She is the author of the Scriptonite Daily blog which explores matters of current affairs, politics, economics and ideas. She is also a contributor to New Internationalist, openDemocracy, Trebuchet Magazine, the Occupy News Network and others. She left her career as a Management Consultant having held senior positions in banking, local government and the NHS to be part of the Occupy Movement and has since worked as a writer and campaigner for social, economic and environmental justice.

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Read more from Kerry-anne Mendoza on the Scriptonite blog.

The Labour purge is underway

21.08.15-Jeremy-Corbyn-No-More-War-590x393.jpg

Jeremy Corbyn at an anti-war protest, August 2014. Garry Knight under a Creative Commons Licence

Kerry-anne Mendoza explains how Labour Party leaders have banned her and many others from voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

The first wave of the UK Labour Party’s purge of registered supporters has begun, and I and many others outside of the Blairite wing of the Labour movement were disenfranchised by our own party on Thursday.

At a little after 5:00 am yesterday, an email arrived in my inbox from Labour HQ.

I read it once, then again. Then I just sat there.

First of all I was embarrassed, like I’d been caught out, even though I’d done nothing wrong. It’s being made out that voting for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership race is an act of sabotage, rather than an expression of my democratic rights. Once I realized that, I got angry. Really angry. I shared the news on my Facebook page and Twitter, and found that I was far from alone.

In a purge being referred to internally as ‘Operation: Ice Pick’, Labour HQ is purging the party of suspected ‘entryists’. The name is a particularly sick joke, referencing the weapon of choice in the 1940 assassination of Leon Trotsky by Stalinists. Supporters of Corbyn have been consistently derided as 'Trots' throughout the campaign.

Comedians Mark Steel and Jeremy Hardy, along with renowned author Marcus Chown and ‘Spirit of ’45’ director Ken Loach – all have been banned from voting in the Labour purge. Why? Marcus Chown joined the executive of the National Health Action Party in the 2015 election because his priority was saving the NHS, and he felt that was the best way to highlight the issue. Jeremy Hardy and Mark Steel have supported fundraisers for the Green Party in the past. Ken Loach was once a member of the now-defunct Socialist Alliance. As Mark Steel so aptly puts it: 'Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member.'

In the first wave of the wider purge on Thursday, many more lost their vote. In a process reminiscent of the US McCarthy witch hunts of the 1960s it appears that anyone with (or suspected of having) leftwing sympathies is being ousted from the party. Twitter user Rebecca Day reported this appeal among members of the Oxford University Labour club:

Hundreds took to the #LabourPurge hashtag to share their stories of rejection. Peter Sinclair summed up the story of many.

In April, Sinclair donated £20 ($31) to Labour. In response, party official Iain McNicol sent him a note of thanks. McNicol told Sinclair that 'The Labour Party is built on donations like the one you just made.'


But Iain McNicol sent him a decidedly frostier email this morning.

So what changed in that time?

In the hours I have been scrolling through the hundreds of rejections, I have yet to find a single person who had not already voted for Jeremy Corbyn, or would have once their ballot papers arrived. Some are pulling together a database of all those hit by the purge, which will give us a better idea of numbers in coming days. But this is merely the first wave.

For what it’s worth, I have never raised funds or been a member of another political party. Like many who have been rejected in the purge, I felt Labour left me rather than the other way round. While we stayed true to the ‘aims and values’ of the Labour Party, others ran it as a neoliberal Conservative-lite option.

The Blairism of the Labour Party, in honour of former party leader and British prime minister Tony Blair, means the curtailment of civil liberties, illegal foreign wars, privatization of the NHS, and more; things that are not aims and values to be supported by any self-respecting social democrat.

First they lost us in government, then in opposition. After losing all but one seat in Scotland to the Scottish National Party, 4 million votes to working-class populists the United Kingdom Independence Party and 1 million to the Green Party (where my vote went in 2015) – Labour responded by swinging right in hopes of picking up the 24% of the electorate who voted Conservative, not the 76% who didn’t.

In their first act of the new parliament, the Conservative Party’s Welfare Bill brought forward plans for another $19 billion of cuts to public services. The Labour leadership whipped their MPs to abstain. To abstain! Of the 4 Labour MPs running for the leadership, only Jeremy Corbyn defied that order and voted against the cuts.

This man of principle, in politics and in life, presents the kinds of policies that many of us disillusioned Labour voters had been dreaming about.

His policies are a progressive prescription, rather than the Victorian-era poison chalice on offer to date:

  • Quantitative Easing for people, as opposed to the $588 billion that New Labour, the Coalition and the Conservative Party have printed and handed to banks since 2009. 
  • A National Investment Bank, dedicated to developing our national infrastructure and housing. This would bring Britain's public transport networks into the 21st century, while beginning to deal with a housing crisis that is becoming the Number One issue facing working and middle-class families.
  • He would seek to lower the welfare bill, but by creating sustainable and worthwhile jobs, not just kicking poor people off their benefits.
  • He would bring the railways and energy sector back under public ownership, ending the debacle of exponential fare and rate rises.

On every measure, Corbyn is bringing the principles of social democracy to bear on today’s problems. He is progressive on civil liberties, a humble and collegiate worker, and an award-winning peacemaker. He is the anti-Blair. He is the 21st-century Clement Attlee, bearing both a radical programme of change and the fidelity of principle to actually deliver it if we grant him mandate. I want to vote for him now, and I want to vote for him in 2020.

But Labour HQ says no. Without producing a single shred of evidence, the Party has asserted that I and countless others 'do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party.'

So what do we do? Well, I suggest we give them the biggest fight of their lives. We appeal, we pester, we argue, and we get our damn vote. They silenced us once; let’s never let them do it again.

You can get involved now:

  • Tweet @UKLabour and tell them what you think about this.
  • Tell Labour what you think on their Facebook page.
  • Appeal your rejection by calling 0845-092-2299
  • Send your details to Matt Beresford so they can be included in his database.
  • To establish what information or investigation the Labour Party has made against you to come to its decision, you can make a subject access request. To do so, the Information Law Blog explains that you will need 3 things:

1. A written request, setting out your name, address and the email address you registered with as a supporter.

2. Proof of your ID. Send a copy of a passport or driving licence and ask them to destroy it when they have validated your request. They can refuse to deal with your request without proof of ID, so don’t give them the opportunity to delay by asking for it.

3. A cheque for £10. Having already lost the £3 supporter fee, this will be annoying, but I doubt Labour will accept a subject access request without the statutory fee, and they can refuse to process the request without it. If you want to know what happened (or find out that it was a flawed process), you will have to sacrifice the tenner. If they are feeling generous, they won’t cash the cheque. The Information Commissioner cannot order them to waive the fee, so don’t waste your time asking them.

Kerry-anne Mendoza is author of Austerity, published by New Internationalist. A version of this blog first appeared on the author's website.

Greece says no to austerity, and so should we...

Greece says no to austerity

"SOLIDARITY with REVOLT in GREECE"

Britain’s Prime Minster David Cameron and his fellow pro-austerity politicians across Europe have issued stern warnings about the election of an anti-austerity government in Greece this week. But the rise of anti-austerity movements presents a far greater threat to them than us.

In 2007-08, two European nations stood on the brink of insolvency – Greece and Iceland. The proposed remedy for both was a bank bail-out, a central bank loan and austerity. While Greece’s political élite embraced austerity, Iceland rejected it. A glance at the outcomes explains this week’s election of an anti-austerity, socialist government in Greece.

In 2012 the Greek government accepted a $133-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (and the Austerity measures attached) in order to bail out its banks and stay in the Euro.

  • The economy of Greece has shrunk every year since.
  • The Austerity Programme has turned a financial crisis into a humanitarian crisis.
  • By 2013, 11 per cent of the population were living in ‘Extreme Material Deprivation’ without heating, electricity, or enough to eat.
  • Unemployment is now over 27 per cent and continues to rise each month, while youth unemployment is now over 59 per cent.
  • Unsurprisingly, crime has soared – with burglaries rising by 125 per cent in 2011.

Such impoverished conditions, coupled with the political scapegoating of immigrants and the poor, laid the ground for a resurgent fascism.

In 2013, Greek police launched Operation Xenios Zeus as part of a crackdown on immigration. This operation, named after the Greek God of Hospitality, delivers anything but that to anyone on Greece’s streets who ‘doesn’t look Greek’. In the first 7 months of the Operation, Greek police arrested more than 85,000 foreigners – yet only 6 per cent were arrested for unlawful entry. While 94 per cent of those arrested were lawful residents of Greece, in many cases they suffered violent assault by the police in the process. The operation became nothing more than a means to vilify and bully ‘foreign-looking’ people.

Tourists to Greece have also been caught up in these arbitrary arrests. In January 2014, a Korean backpacker was seized by Greek police as an illegal immigrant, despite the fact that he showed them his passport and itinerary. When he asked for proof of identity of the police officer arresting him, he was punched in the face.

In the same month, Christian Ukwuorji, an African American travelling on a US passport, was walking through Athens on his holiday when he was seized by police. When he showed police his US passport, they confiscated it and beat him so severely he was hospitalized.

Greece has previously enjoyed a low prevalence of HIV, but since the economic crisis new infections have sky rocketed; in 2010, the new infection rates shot up by 57 per cent. These rises were entirely attributable to the austerity crisis. In 2010, heroin use grew by 20 per cent. In areas where the state-funded needle-swap programmes were closed, HIV infections among drug users shot up 1,450 per cent. As the social-security and healthcare systems failed after 40 per cent budget cuts, some desperate Greek addicts deliberately infected themselves with HIV in order to access just $890 of financial support each month and admittance to a drug rehabilitation centre.

But instead of addressing austerity, authorities blamed sex workers for the rise in HIV cases. Greek police began raiding brothels and forcing sex workers to undergo HIV tests. In February 2013, the police published the names and photographs of 17 sex workers arrested and tested positive for HIV, branding them a ‘danger to public health’. One of the sex workers committed suicide as a result, unable to face her family.

Later came legislation making it legal for police to arrest and detain all suspected illegal sex workers and test them for HIV without their consent. Embracing austerity has been a disaster for Greece. So how did Iceland fair, having rejected it?

Iceland refused to use tax-payer cash to honour debts run up by the private sector, jailed the bankers responsible, kicked out the prime minister and put him on trial for his part in the crisis, and invited its citizens to write a new constitution.

There is an alternative to Austerity, and it has proven far more successful. In fact, there is no case in history where Austerity caused growth in a time of economic crisis. Greek voters are joining Iceland and much of Scandinavia in opting out of neoliberalism, in favour of social democracy – and if they are equally successful in the implementation of such policies, it will be yet another nail in the coffin of this morally and literally bankrupt ideology. It is time for the British electorate to follow suit.

Kerry-anne Mendoza is the author of Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy, published by New Internationalist. - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/books/2015/01/14/rejecting-austerity/#sthash.rHYeKLBG.dpuf

Kerry-anne Mendoza is the author of Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy, published by New Internationalist.

Kerry-anne Mendoza is the author of Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy, published by New Internationalist. - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/books/2015/01/14/rejecting-austerity/#sthash.rHYeKLBG.dpuf
Kerry-anne Mendoza is the author of Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy, published by New Internationalist. - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/books/2015/01/14/rejecting-austerity/#sthash.rHYeKLBG.dpuf

Rejecting Austerity

cameron

VJ Eon Artist ©

In July 1944, the soon-to-be victorious powers of the Second World War met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Their mission: to lay down the architecture of the post-War global political and economic systems. They stated that their new idea – neoliberalism – would free the world from fascism forever. In reality, they built the foundations for a new fascism, corporate fascism – and modern austerity is merely a vehicle to deliver it.

Austerity is not a short-term disruption to balance the books. It is the controlled demolition of the welfare state – transforming Britain from a social democracy into a corporate state. We are witnessing the end, and not the beginning, of a process set in train at Bretton Woods.

It began as ‘Structural Adjustment’, eviscerating the economies and societies of countries in the so-called ‘developing world’; now, austerity is feasting on the European and North American continents.

Austerity has been presented as necessary, constructive and temporary by governments across the world, Britain included. In reality, ‘Austerity’ is unnecessary, destructive and intended as a permanent break with the traditions of social democracy.

The pillars of social democracy – Law and Justice, Employment Rights, Civil Liberties and Human Rights, and The Welfare State – are being bulldozed, one after the other, under the guise of ‘Austerity’.

In education, successive governments have dissolved the model of state-owned schools, staffed by public-sector employees. Today, our children largely attend privately owned schools, where the majority of services in the schools are delivered by private-sector staff. The results have seen costs soar and quality plummet.

A similar model has been used in Health. The Health System is being gutted by endless and costly reorganizations, rampant commercialization and outsourcing, and unaffordable private finance initiative (PFI) contracts.

The latest major reorganization of the National Health Service (NHS), under the Health and Social Care Act, will suck another £4 billion ($6.1 billion) out of the health service. This comes on the back of the £780 million ($1.2 million) blown by New Labour on 70 reorganizations in just 4 years between 2005 and 2009. Anyone experienced in change management can tell you that this level of change, which does not allow for new systems and processes to bed in or for their benefits to be measured, is simply madness.

The underpinning of any social democracy is a generous welfare state that ensures citizens finding themselves unable to work through involuntary unemployment, sickness, disability or age receive enough to live in dignity. Our pensioners, our disabled people, our working and jobless poor – all have fallen towards a promised safety net only to find it has been replaced by a bed of nails.

Private companies like G4S have been allowed, by successive governments, to quietly buy up large tracts of our formerly public police, security and justice sector.

It is increasingly likely that if someone commits a crime in Britain they will be arrested by a G4S-provided officer, detained in a G4S cell and transported to court by a G4S van driven by G4S officers. The court will be staffed by G4S security officers, they will be sent to a G4S prison, and released into the G4S probation service to live in a G4S-run halfway house. All run at a profit, all unaccountable to the public, all free from scrutiny through Freedom of Information requests.

The government also cut £220 million ($335 million) from Legal Aid provision, which amounts to slashing the £1 billion ($1.5 billion) budget by almost a quarter. The cut was combined with punitive changes to the rules, making it almost impossible for regular citizens to challenge the privatized justice system. Leading Law and Justice bodies warn it will transform the much-lauded British justice system into something no better than a ‘banana republic’.

A raft of restrictions on the right to protest, assemble and express dissent has also hobbled the public’s ability to respond forcefully to such egregious changes.

Meanwhile, the fortunes of the FTSE100 companies is at record highs, Chief Executives are seeing 23-per-cent pay rises, taxes are being reduced for or simply not collected from the wealthiest individuals and corporations, MP expenses rose 25-per cent last year and the Queen received a £5-million ($7.6-million) pay rise from the public purse.

This is not a case of poor people suffering austerity while the wealthiest live large. It is a case of poor people suffering austerity in order that the wealthy live large. It is time to reject outright the politics and the economics of austerity – and instead work together to build a world that works for everyone.

Kerry-anne Mendoza is the author of Austerity: The Demolition of the Welfare State and the Rise of the Zombie Economy, published by New Internationalist.

Michael Roscoe is the author of Why Things Are Going To Get Worse And Why We Should Be Glad, published by New Internationalist. - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2014/12/01/why-things-wealth-and-money/#sthash.RLHbAraO.dpuf
Michael Roscoe is the author of Why Things Are Going To Get Worse And Why We Should Be Glad, published by New Internationalist. - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2014/12/01/why-things-wealth-and-money/#sthash.RLHbAraO.dpuf
Michael Roscoe is the author of Why Things Are Going To Get Worse And Why We Should Be Glad, published by New Internationalist. - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2014/12/10/work-no-decent-jobs/#sthash.egqrxHcO.dpuf
Michael Roscoe is the author of Why Things Are Going To Get Worse And Why We Should Be Glad, published by New Internationalist. - See more at: http://newint.org/blog/2014/12/10/work-no-decent-jobs/#sthash.egqrxHcO.dpuf

For UKIP, 'it's raining men'

Flood

A UKIP Councillor blamed recent flooding across the country on divine retribution for Equal Marriage laws. freefoto.com under a Creative Commons Licence

UKIP Leader Nigel Farage’s headaches this week did not stop at being whacked over the head with a placard by protesters in Kent. A UKIP Councillor blaming recent flooding across the country on divine retribution for Equal Marriage laws transformed the party from a concern, to a laughing stock – and now a Facebook campaign is under way to make ‘Its Raining Men’ number 1 to celebrate.

Henley on Thames Councillor David Sylvester wrote to his local paper to argue the nation was 'beset by storms' because of David Cameron’s decision to act 'arrogantly against the Gospel' in changing marriage laws. UKIP stood behind the comments until Sylvester went on to BBC Radio to defend them, at which point the party used emergency measures to suspend him.  Sylvester told listeners:

'I don’t have a problem with gay people.  I believe as a Christian I should love gay people and, indeed, I do. My prayer for them is they will be healed.  I believe that is what the Apostle Paul said in the New Testament, he said some of you are gay but you have been healed. There is healing for the gay condition and I believe a Christian should long for gay people to be healed and to have normal heterosexual lives.

'It is nonsense to say it is homophobic. If you love a person enough to want them to be healed and to have a proper family, that is hardly homophobic.  It is a spiritual disease… it’s not what I say, it’s what the Bible says.'

Since the show, UKIP and David Sylvester have been the butt of a million jokes, which show no sign of abating anytime soon.  A twitter account @UKIPWeather has been set up, and now has over 100,000 followers.

Then some bright spark made a UKIP version of Radio 4’s The Shipping Forecast which promptly went viral.


The Shipping Forecast spoof expands the mockery of UKIP to take in UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom’s ‘Bongo-Bongo Land’ comments, and referring to female party activists as ‘sluts.'

But joking aside for a moment, UKIP are proving themselves a party of hysterics and bigots.

It would be futile to highlight UKIP as homophobic, transphobic or xenophobic – they are omniphobic.  They are appalled and terrified about pretty much everything which doesn’t look and sound like them.  They appeal to the darker angels of our nature which seek out and magnify superficial differences, whilst overlooking the vastness of our common humanity.

In 2010, the party suspended its Chairman for London, Paul Wiffen, after he made the following racist rant on an internet forum.

'You Left-wing scum are all the same, wanting to hand our birth right to Romanian gypsies who beat their wives and children into begging and stealing money they can gamble with, Muslim nutters who want to kill us and put us all under medieval Sharia law, the same Africans who sold their Afro-Caribbean brothers into a slavery that Britain was the first to abolish.'

More recently UKIP candidates were found to be posting pictures of themselves making Nazi salutes, and one candidate created the above picture of himself as one of Hitler’s henchmen using photoshop.

There is also significant crossover in both candidates and supporters, from the British National Party (BNP) to UKIP. UKIP are the polite face of the same old ‘loathe thy neighbour’ politics of hate and envy.  Recent discussions on the UKIP online member’s forum on homosexuality and gay marriage were particularly enlightening.  Former parliamentary candidate and branch chairman for Oxford, Dr Julia Gasper claimed

'As for the links between homosexuality and paedophilia, there is so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the ­subject.'

UKIP member Jan Zolyniak posted: 'The evidence is quite clear that the percentage of homosexuals who molest children is very high and cannot be dismissed.'

Douglas Denny from the Bognor Regis branch in West Sussex wrote: 'What irritates me is they (sic) way they and their leftie, neo-Commie followers seem to want to force the rest of us to consider them as normal.'

Perhaps the best way to deal with UKIP to diffuse their efforts to be taken seriously as some rebel faction.  Let’s make them unelectably ridiculous. The plan is to get the 80’s dance track and token LGBT theme tune to number 1 in the pop charts in honour of Sylvester’s eminent bigotry. The Facebook campaign already has over 5,000 followers, and depending on how many stupid things UKIP politicians manage to cough up in the coming weeks, we might be looking at a comeback for The Weather Girls.

Join the Facebook Campaign.

And have a little listen to the original to entertain yourself in the meantime.

 

This article is a cross-post from Scriptonite Daily. Read the original piece.

The compassionate case against foreign intervention

debris in Homs
Destruction in the Syrian city of Homs Reuters/Yazan Homsy/Freedom House, under a CC License

‘We aren’t on the wrong side in the Vietnam War; we are the wrong side’Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg

There has always been a battle between an isolationist approach to intervention (if it doesn’t affect us, leave well alone) and a humanitarian case for intervention (injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere). However, a growing number oppose intervention precisely because they subscribe to the humanitarian view. These people have come to the reluctant and disheartening conclusion that we, in the West, are not the good guys. To send war ravaged nations our governments, corporations and armed forces as saviours, is like sending a second Big Bad Wolf into the forest after Red Riding Hood.

The Corporate State and media outlets have become expert in the manipulating our basic concern for fellow human beings. As Syria burns, we will likely face calls to intervene again soon.

Ahead of the Iraq war, the stated case for intervention was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, deployable within 45 minutes.

Since the war, justification for the interventions has been sought with a new cover story. They argue, often in rhetorical tones that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons on his own people and that he was an evil dictator; ‘are you saying Iraq was a better place without democracy?’

One can easily appear to defend a dictator or open themselves up to a ‘sin by omission’ argument e.g. ‘So you would just do nothing and let all those people die?’ But Iraq is actually the perfect case against intervention. It has already been a democracy: the US funded the Ba’ath party to perform a military coup against elected President Arif in 1968, to prevent him continuing his Arab Socialist programme and talks of reunification with Syria and Iran.

Britain’s Thatcher government spent $1.5 billion of taxpayer money propping up the Hussein dictatorship throughout the 1980s. In the early 1980s Saddam’s bellicose Iraq launched a bloody war against Iran that was to last the best part of a decade The Scott Inquiry of 1996 found that the Thatcher government had operated in secret to ignore the United Nations arms embargo and supply military support to Iraq. This war cost over one million Iranian lives, and up to half a million Iraqis.

When people claim Saddam used chemical weapons on his own people, they refer to the chemical gas attack on Halabja in 1988, which killed thousands of Kurdish civilians. This attack was carried out in the dying months of the Iran-Iraq war, while Thatcher’s government was providing military support to his regime.

One might also argue that these were mistakes that we can now rectify with a democratic Iraq. But what kind of democracy is Iraq? The beleaguered installed government hangs on by a thread. A recent string of co-ordinated car bombs across Baghdad killed 66 people just two days ago. April 2013 was the deadliest month in Iraq since 2008, with more than 700 people killed.

The war has also been of great financial cost to the US and British taxpayer. A recent Harvard Study found that Iraq and Afghanistan have added $2 trillion to the US national debt, 20 per cent of the debt incurred between 2001 and 2012.

So if not the ordinary people of Iraq, Britain or the US – who exactly did profit from the invasion of Iraq? Big business.

Corporations received $138 billion (10 per cent of US GDP) of US taxpayer money for government contracts in Iraq. Ten companies took 52 per cent of this sum. Included in their number was Halliburton, a company linked to both the then US Vice President Dick Cheney andthe President George W Bush. Halliburton received $39.5 billionn of contracts in Iraq, without needing to compete against bids from other firms.

Be it Pol Pot, Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein, or even The Taliban – the US and UK governments have supported countless undemocratic organizations to take over nations, so long as they sign contracts which profit our companies and support our foreign policy agenda.

To acknowledge that ‘we’ are not the good guys is not easy, and it does require searching for alternative ways of intervening where we feel compelled to act.

Our new model of intervention won’t be ready by the time the calls come to intervene in Syria. But that does not mean we need to support an already failed policy.

It behoves us to consider alternative models for intervention and action, which don’t hand our taxes, and foreign lives and resources, directly into the hands of corporate criminals. It is time to find another way. We do not have to turn our backs, but we do have to change our tactics.

Richard Falk’s paper ‘The Failures of “Intervention from Above”: Is There and Alternative Model for Humanitarian Intervention’ explores this topic further.

This is an edited version of a post which first appeared on the Scriptonite blog.


Handing over public services to the banks

money and calculator
The Private Finance Initiative is hitting taxpayers Images_of_Money, under a CC License

There is a scandal unfolding quietly in Britain which poses an existential threat to our most critical public services. It is called the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). This dangerous circle of self-interest means our government is making the taxpayer pay the bill for private service providers and banks to take over our schools, hospitals and other core public services.

PFI schemes were initially designed by Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont in 1992 and were rapidly expanded under New Labour. They are touted as a form of Public Private Partnership. The government uses private finance, rather than borrowing in the usual way, to raise funds for projects. Since 1992, our hospitals and schools have been built this way. PFI loans are at least twice the rate of interest of ordinary government loans, and repaid over 25-30 years.

A recent report by the Treasury Committee condemned PFI as ‘always… more expensive than government borrowing’. The report continues: ‘we have not seen clear areas of savings and benefits in other areas… quality was lower in PFI buildings (and)… PFI is also inherently inflexible, especially for NHS projects’.

The majority of PFI debt does not appear in government debt or deficit figures – the government can therefore use it to bury the true debt burden. Departments can use it to increase their own budgets without dipping into their allotted funds for capital investment.

PFI also allows the private sector to develop the infrastructure to deliver national services while shifting the costs and the risk to the taxpayer. It is the loan provider of the PFI scheme (the bank) which retains ownership of the asset (the school or hospital) for at least the term of the loan, or in the case of default.

Banks are seeking to make profits on the financialization of our public services, and successive governments seeking to put a gloss on their spending figures. The simple interests of the taxpayer – to get what they pay for – have been quietly abandoned amid this circle jerk of the state, private service providers and the financial services sector. The only people who are not benefiting from PFI are the people actually paying for it.

Already, 22 of the 103 NHS trusts to enter PFI are facing financial difficulty due to the exorbitant repayments. Some hospitals are having to handover a fifth of their annual budget on paying for the deal.

In education, it was revealed that we are due to have a shortfall of 250,000 school places for our children by 2014, whilst the tax payer has picked up a £70 million ($106.6 million) bill for PFI schools which had to close.  

A recent report by the European Union Services Strategy Unit, showed that the average profit for banks in PFI projects is over 50 per cent.

Some might well ask – so what? If the services are still free at the point of use, what do we care who provides them?

Our taxes pay for the services. PFI, by the Treasury Committee’s own report is proven not to provide value for money for the tax payer.

As the recent health care disaster in Mid Staffordshire, and the unfolding NHS 111 scandal have taught us – prioritising the financialization of a service over its core purpose (helping people) costs lives.   

Despite being an entirely manufactured cost inefficiency for the benefit of private companies, the PFI scandal is being used by those vested interests as a case for more privatisation. It is turned into proof that publicly run services are inherently inefficient, bureaucratic and costly.

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently told the 300 delegates at the Global Investment Conference 2013 that he believed it was time stop ‘endlessly bashing bankers’ because the City was one of Britain’s greatest strengths.

According to the National Audit Office, The UK National Debt rose by £1.5 trillion as a result of the bank bailout. This is twice the nation’s total annual budget. For this amount, Britain could have funded the health service for 14 years, the entire education system for 40 years or over 300 of Job Seeker’s Allowance.

‘Banker bashing’ by the public will not, and cannot, end until this sector and its cronies in parliament are held to account properly.

The British public needs to face up to a terrifying but empowering reality. We have no advocates. This is not a Conservative, a Liberal Democrat or a Labour issue. This is a democratic issue. All three major parties have participated in these scams; they are all in it together.

We need to really get it in our bones that the cavalry is not coming. We are it. Only our newly emerging people’s campaigns and institutions can resolve the crisis, because our existing institutions not only created it, but exist to serve it.

For a longer version of this post, along with ideas for taking action see the Scriptonite blog. Crossposted with the author’s permission.