Labour Parties

Mark Jones markjones011 at
Mon Sep 23 08:37:18 MDT 2002

At 23/09/2002 14:01, Michael wrote:

>  the NHS, which is being softened up for privatisation as much as, if not
> more than, it was under the Conservatives.

I don't agree with this. Thatcher had a definite strategy for NHS
privatisation, and reorganized the NHS into 'health care trusts' which were
set in competition with one another and which were destined to be turned
into corporate entities and eventually listed on the stockmarket and/or
sold off.  This plan has been abandoned, not least because it was
politically very unpopular and helped the Tories lose the 1997 elections.
Safeguarding 'our' NHS became a totemic commitment and the 2001 election
was fought primarily on this issue; the Tories tried to make the 'defence
of the pound' an issue but their anti-euro bandwagon did not work. If Blair
is planning to privatise the NHS then he's going a funny way round it,
since some recent actions of the Labour govt's health seretary including
purchasing private hospitals and bringing them back into the NHS.

>  The proliferation of so-called public private partnerships is the
> insidious method by which private interests take hold of state assets and
> start pumping them for profit backed by state guarantees.

This may be true but I read an article I think in the FT last week-can't
find it now--which suggested that the real reason for Gordon brown
obsessing about private-finance schemes is because he wants to get some
major public assets off the books, before major (state-funded) investment
programmes begin: these include the London Underground, the railways and
others things. The reason is because otherwise Britain will run foul of the
European Central Bank's  public debt requirements. The ECB has got a
straitjacket on EU public spending. Britain still spends about 8% less GNP
on the public sector than the EU average and has decades of underinvestment
in public services because of Tory mismanagement, to make good. So we
cannot join the Euro, stick to the ECB rules, and also make the
multibillion pound public sector investments needed without finagling the
books; by getting the assets nominally out of the state sector, and
financing them thru bonds or similar methods, the real scale of increased
public sector spending can be cosmetically disguised and the appearance of
fiscal prudence maintained. That's one theory anyhow.

In any case, is privatisation really the issue? What matters is the overall
redistributional effect of the mix of fiscal, taxation and spending
measures. I pretty much agree with this being the new 'Stiglitz model' in
experimental practice; this is bourgeois renewal in the same way New Deal
or Welfare State or keynesian polices represent both renewal and
restabilisation programmes to get capitalism out of a deep crisis. No doubt
the same things will happen in the US when the ghastly Bush era is over in
2 years' time. It all shitty reforms and doesn't solve the underlying
problem and in fact only makes it worse since anything which gives
capitalism a new lease of life only ensures a bigger fuck-up down the line.
But at the same time, these reforms do have to be fought for and supported.
Electoral abstentionism is ultraleftism, it is a way of disarming the w/c.
You have to participate in the political life of society, and that means
campaigning for reforms which do objectively benefit millions of w/c people
(as well as subornin and co-opting them). If Thatcher was in power, we'd
have school vouchers, private medical care--well, we'd be living in Bush's
America. Polls show that 80% of British electors hate that idea viscerally.

>I don't believe the welfare state is dead, and in fact concur with your
>recent points re the reversion to the welfare state in Europe as a means
>of maintaining/bolstering cohesion vis a vis inter-imperialist rivalry
>with the US. However that in itself is a terrain of struggle, with
>traditional models of delivery up against alternative PPP-type models
>propagated internationally by Blair and Brown and their sponsors in
>British banks (e.g. HBOS in Spain).

I agree with all this and yes, we should argue strongly against PPPs.


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