What does Leveson tell us about the Tories and their plan to wipe out state services?

At first, they ignore an inconvenient truth.  Then they ridicule it.  Then they attack it … and finally the omnishambles of the Tory-LD government has become self-evident.

 Nevertheless, this government is very successfully dismantling the NHS, state education and what remains of the post-war consensus for the profitable benefit of the transnational corporations, the financial sector (in other words themselves, their friends and relatives); a fact still largely ignored by the mainstream media. This raises a number of important questions about the nature of our democracy.  The Leveson inquiry sheds  significant light on government’s interaction with a transnational corporation like News International, and corporate expectations of government.

Tories plan to wipe out state services

A leading Cabinet minister has admitted that the Conservatives aim to eradicate the state provision of public services in this country. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister and a former banker, in an extraordinary gung-ho speech to Policy Exchange to mark 10 years of the centre-right think tank, said the Government wants to end state provision – even if it means they end up being run by private equity companies from tax havens….The speech comes as David Cameron’s Government is embarking on a controversial programme to extend privatisation way beyond Margaret Thatcher’s wildest dreams – to Britain’s road network and even the police. (1)

 Noun 1.   confidence trick – a swindle in which you cheat at gambling or persuade a person to buy worthless property   bunco, bunco game, bunko, bunko game, con game, confidence game, flimflam, gyp, hustle, con, sting

sting operation – a complicated confidence game planned and executed with great care (especially an operation implemented by undercover agents to apprehend criminals)  swindle, cheat, rig – the act of swindling by some fraudulent scheme; “that book is a fraud”

 

That David Cameron and George Osborne are ‘arrogant posh boys’ who know very little about economics or seemingly anything else much, has been patently obvious, from the beginning. As Martin Rowson wrote at the time of the Comprehensive Spending Review:

‘… we need to understand various things about George Osborne, this Government’s economic vandal-in-chief. First, he’s almost a victim of his own ambition…. Second, he’s actually a bit of wimp… If you combine these two aspects of his character, Osborne suddenly becomes both more and less terrifying. He’s less terrifying because it’s just an act, the calculated malevolence purely there to cow the rest of us into compliance with his programme of Thatcherite orthodoxy. However, where he becomes more terrifying is when you realise that … he really and truly doesn’t know what he’s doing … There is, in other words, a stench of deranged naivety surrounding George Osborne, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, and I fear we might be hearing the phrase “I wasn’t expecting this kind of thing” quite a lot in the next few years, as they survey the wreckage.’ (2)

Versions of this view can now be heard repeated across the political spectrum, and from the far right end, Peter Hitchins complains:

All the pillars of the Cameron delusion have now collapsed. The Tory Party cannot win a majority by any method. Nobody trusts it, and  it stands for nothing except  getting posh boys into office… 
[Mr Cameron] is exactly what he looks like, an unprincipled chancer with limited skills in public relations…. 

George Osborne is not an iron Chancellor with a severe plan to save the economy…. he’s not very good at his job. (3)

Michael Meacher on George Osborne: This man has the touch of genius if the Tory aim is now, as it seems, to lose the next election. (4)

But to be fair, it is not only Cameron and Osborne who have created the shambles of the last six weeks. Other members of the cabinet have contributed their mite, including Frances Maude and his cack-handed attempts to create antagonism to the Fuel tanker drivers and the unions; Theresa May’s inability to get the date right and the chaos at Heathrow; Caroline Spelman’s ridiculous water standpipes; Baroness Warsi comparing UKIP to the BNP; and now the U-turn on a U-turn about the new fighter aircraft.  More seriously in the last two years, we have had the Liam Fox affair; Gove’s multiple apologies to Parliament over the School Building programme; Hague’s inability to organize a boat to evacuate from Libya, the Tory fundraiser and now the emerging evidence of the Levenson inquiry.  In fact, it is quite difficult to know who from the present cabinet could possibly replace Cameron… they have all ‘messed up’.

However, all of this incompetence poses a conundrum.

How can it be that these shambolic, careless, arrogant individuals were able to supervise, let alone devise the immense sophistication of the Health and Social Care bill, the Welfare Reform bill and the Education bill? Not only are these bills profoundly (deliberately?) complicated but they are also deviously tailored to facilitate the ongoing privatization of public services… often by wrecking the state provision thus encouraging take-up of personal private insurance.  In addition, there has been accompanying legislation such as, the not much discussed ‘Henry VIII’ powers to abolish the quangos, and the Legal Aid bill which together will largely prevent any sort of challenge through the courts.

There has also been a highly synchronized time-table orchestrating the passage of these major bits of legislation, getting them swiftly in place, before the first cuts in the benefits system began to be implemented. Arguably, the intention was to get them onto statute well before the public or MPs have had a chance to fully digest their implications.

Additionally, ‘distractions’ have often been choreographed to coincide with contentious legislation.  For example the proposal to sell off the forests, which was bound to cause an outcry, coincided with the first reading of Lansley’s Health and Social Care bill.  This announcement was in itself unnecessary because the Public Bodies bill, which was designed to allow the minister to sell as much of the forests as she liked without any recourse to Parliament, was simultaneously going through the House of Lords.

Presumably, it is this ruthlessly efficient programme, aimed at selling-off what remains of state services, that caused George Osborne to be hailed as a great strategist.. (along with his three dimensional strategy chessboard). However, following his disastrously misjudged budget, few think that Osborne is a brilliant strategist anymore.

The question must be asked, therefore, to what extent is it plausible that Lansley, Gove or IDS were the primary movers in devising their respective bills?  Do we really believe that Oliver Letwin, the dumper of official mail in a public park waste-bin, was the brains co-ordinating the strategy?  It is also clear that civil servants can have had a very limited input given that the bills were up and running so quickly after the general election.

It seems so much more probable that the global management consultants, such as KPMG and McKinsey, and the transnational corporations, were simply allowed free-rein to write the legislation to suit their needs … with no apparent safeguards to secure and protect the best interests of UK* citizens from vested interests.

In this scenario, government ministers would then simply be the front-men, the PR…  which would fit with why, when criticized, the Coalition ministers peculiarly focus on the inadequacy of the way that a policy was presented.  As Douglas Alexander said:

George Osborne is apologising for spin of the budget, when he should be apologising for the substance.

The incestuous relationships between politicians, civil servants, think tanks, lobbyists, donors and corporate advisors have been discussed widely outside of the mainstream media … and also in a number of previous Think Left articles including: Welfare Reform and the US Insurance Giant Unum (5);  Lobbyists are destroying the democratic process. (6);  Transnational Corporations have not let a good crisis go to waste. (7)

The Leveson inquiry gives another level of authority to the supposition that:

‘Britain’s political class in particular and ruling class in general collude, connive and corrupt both systemically and systematically…. The evidence has laid bare the intimate, extensive and insidious web of social, familial and personal ties between the political, corporate and legal forces that govern a country: a patchwork of individual and institutional associations so tightly interwoven that to pick at one part is to watch the whole thing unravel.’ (8)

Furthermore, Gary Young writes:

… these interactions mock the very notion of democracy on which the nation’s illusions are based…. With the culture secretary described by Murdoch’s lobbyist as a “cheerleader” for News International, it seems as if the takeover was to all intents and purposes a done deal, prevented only by the fallout from the hacking scandal. All the kinks ironed out on horseback and settled in time for the main course. Parliament would have been a mere rubber stamp. Oversight reduced to an afterthought in a House of Commons…. (8)

Again as a result of Leveson, Anthony Barnett identifies a highly significant aspect about the nature of this Tory-LD government:

The scandal has now clarified a far more breathtaking question: is Britain governed by a big lie?

Of course there was not a “deal” in the narrow sense of a written contract…. It was a partnership … between people who decided to get into bed with each other and help each other obtain their interests at the expense of public life in Britain.

… no person of sound judgment could conclude anything other than that there was indeed a grand collaboration worked out before the election by the Murdochs and Cameron and Osborne and then implemented after it….

Any government whose duty is to secure and protect its citizens would necessarily seek to ensure that NewsCorp’s power is limited, checked by regulation and competition.

Today, how can Leveson pass judgment on the nature of the understandings reached by Rupert’s Rebecca when she went horse riding with David Cameron beyond the reach of judicial standards of proof? Without the clear evidence of the metaphorical ‘smoking gun’ to make a verdict of a conspiracy against the public interest simply unavoidable, it becomes his judgment-call to force the Prime Minister and Chancellor from office, for selling out the country with their utterly inappropriate relationships with team Murdoch. It is a power he’ll naturally resile from using….

But the bigger issue remains… It is one thing to kow-tow, to cultivate, to grant some concessions to (to seek not to make an enemy of) a man who controls 40 per cent of the press. This may be revolting but it is – or was – political reality in Britain. It is quite another to agree to reshape the all-important media environment of our democracy for the advantage of a player whose coverage is not only notorious for bias and the dishonourable destruction of people’s lives but who is also known to bribe the police and break the law.

This was the Rubicon that Cameron and Osborne plotted with Murdoch and Son to cross. While the Murdochs may be confounded, their agents remain in place in 10 and 11 Downing Street. They have shown themselves as people not fit and proper to run a government. (9)

So if we extrapolate from the Murdoch case, Barnett’s words could be re-written as:

But the bigger issue remains… It is one thing to kow-tow, to cultivate, to grant some concessions to (to seek not to make an enemy of) the transnational corporations and the financial sector. This may be revolting but it is – or was – political reality in Britain. It is quite another to agree to reshape the all-important public services of our democracy for the advantage of players whose primary concern is a ready, stream of profits which will doubtless end up untaxed in some offshore secrecy jurisdiction.

Without the clear evidence of the metaphorical ‘smoking gun’ to make a verdict of a conspiracy against the public interest simply unavoidable, it becomes a judgment-call to force the Prime Minister and Chancellor from office, for selling out the country with their utterly inappropriate relationships with private health providers, private employment insurers, global management consultants, private education providers and so on

Richard Murphy makes the point that the corrosiveness of offshore tax havens stems from ‘a deliberate, legally backed veil of secrecy’ (10). But at the very point that, the ‘imperative of shattering secrecy’ by transparency and country to country reporting, is beginning to be taken seriously and internationally, the Tory-LD government is making our own public services secret, unavailable to public scrutiny, by claiming commercial sensitivity.

As George Monbiot argues:

Private companies now provide services we are in no position to refuse, yet, unlike the state bodies they replace, they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act…

Companies are once again striking remarkable deals, hatched in secret, at the expense of taxpayers, pupils and patients. Last week, for example, we learned that Circle Healthcare will be able to extract millions of pounds a year from a public hospital, Hinchingbrooke, which is in deep financial trouble. Crucial information about the deal remains secret on the grounds of Circle’s “commercial confidentiality”.

… If we are to reclaim power from the corporations that have seized it, first we need to know what that power looks like. (11)

This raises fundamental questions about the nature and power of government.

Shouldn’t there be a responsibility on political parties to spell out their intentions before they are elected?

Shouldn’t there be transparency about the authors and genesis of legislation?

Shouldn’t there be a capacity to challenge governments who have misled the electorate prior to election?  For example ‘No top down re-organisation of the NHS’ and ‘No Tuition fees’.

Shouldn’t there be a legal duty on governments to secure and protect the best interests of their citizens?

Doubtless this list is not exhaustive but the point is, that without this sort of transparency and accountability, in what way can any UK government be said to be democratically elected?  What protection is there for the electorate from a sanctioned coup d’etat?

As Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said: “Far from being done by mutual consent, the Government’s plans rest on imposing unpopular ideas on an unwilling workforce.” (1)  At the same time, Professor Prem Sikka reports that Britain’s rate of wealth transference from employees and the state to corporations is unmatched in any developed country. (12)

It seems that this government of the Tory-LDs are intent on transforming the UK* into that which James Galbraith identifies as a Predator State: The state as monopoly collector of taxes and corrupt distributor of the spoils to the private sector. (13)

sting operation – a complicated confidence game planned and executed with great care  swindle, cheat, rig – the act of swindling by some fraudulent scheme;

* The peoples of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are to  varying degrees protected by their own legislatures. It is the NHS and public services of the English which are currently the primary targets.

Dedicated to Phil C., a greatly respected commentator on Think Left, who never did get around to writing us that promised article.  

He will be much missed – R.I.P. 10.05.12

(1) http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2012/03/tories-plan-to-wipe-out-state-services/

(2) http://www.tribunemagazine.co.uk/2010/10/martin-rowson-3/

(3) http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/

(4) http://www.leftfutures.org/2012/05/osborne-sticking-to-austerity-will-the-last-one-out-turn-off-the-light/#more-9579

(5) https://think-left.org/2011/11/22/welfare-reform-and-the-us-insurance-giant-unum/

 (6) https://think-left.org/2011/12/06/lobbyists-are-destroying-the-democratic-process/

 (7) https://think-left.org/2012/03/05/transnational-corporations-have-not-let-a-good-crisis-go-to-waste/

(8) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/06/leveson-murdoch-cameron-brooks-privilege

(9) http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/anthony-barnett/murdoch-and-big-lie

(10) http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2012/05/07/paradigms-can-shift/

(11) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/07/freedom-information-my-monstrous-proposal

(12) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/23/squeezing-ordinary-people-finances

(13) https://think-left.org/2012/02/16/the-nhs-and-tina-mrs-thatchers-ideological-anti-democratic-political-legacy/

29 thoughts on “What does Leveson tell us about the Tories and their plan to wipe out state services?

  1. Speaking of Circle Healthcare, one of their execs was on Jeff Randall tonight commenting on the police protest march. If you’re thinking, ‘WTF?’, I’m glad to see you’re with me…

    • I agree with your sentiment .. but I think treason is specifically action against the government or the monarch. I imagine that the Queen won’t mind.. and the government is facilitating this corporate takeover so are unlikely to prosecute themselves for treason against themselves😦 We want treason to mean harm to the people!!

      • If we’re going to be doing people as traitors, let’s go for George Downing, who I suspect knew well what he was doing when he came back from Holland and introduced what Disraeli referred to as ‘Dutch finance’ here; he was setting up a system called the National Debt which had the specific purpose of transferring money perpetually from the poor to the rich. That entire system needs to be dragged into the sunlight and exposed for what it is, a scam and not at all (as we’re led to believe) the natural order of things. If you want an example of doing harm to the people, none better I’d say!:-)

      • Thanks Kay Fabe .. I’ve never heard of George Downing before so I’ll go and do something dragging of myself into the sunlight:)

      • The Downing Street bloke. Cromwell’s man at the Hague, later Charles 2’s man there, which is where he learned about what Disraeli called ‘Dutch finance’ and debt, arguably the same thing.

  2. similar to Mussolini’s Fascist Italy …extreme corporatism private monopolies arrogating to themselves the functions of the state , trying to cover that up is proposterous and in itself criminal …taking us all back centuries

    • Good parallel… I was thinking today about the Indignados and the Spanish Civil war… there is a very real threat present, largely unrecognised by the mainstream media.

  3. Disraeli – Dutch Finance …all quite deliberate …there’s method in their madness with all the chaos as well …if you think about it ……all this privatisation is starting to add up …some of it is anarcho – capitalism , some shock doctrine / disaster capitalism .

    A lot of stuff is deliberately complicated / inpenetrable for good reason …there is also a scattergun approach to confuse ….some of the radicals …the equivalent of the Thatcherite dries would rather lose a election as long as they got things through …..the creative destruction bit ….there’s circles that they’ll at least try and square …

    ..similar things happened during the 1930’s Great Depression ….the Banks wanted despair …it made them more powerful …some ! of the Nazi ideas originated from the Wall St Finance Industry in the very early 1930’s ……a lot of the stuff now is certainly dabbling with neo fascism / crypto fascism …you’ve got things that are more ” subtle ” but nonetheless l very insidious …. than say a mad German Warmonger or Mussolini …I agree that there’s some parelells with the Spanish Civil War …one thing is for sure there’s problems on a par with the 1930’s Great Depression http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/04/201142612714539672.html

    Everytime there is a crisis …they go for restructuring …the Keynesian system was abandoned for the Chicago Reagan / Thatcher Monetarist / Neo Liberal model …the growth was no better than in the early 70’s ….they didn’t set out to improve things …merely to change ..and usually to their backer’s advantage . Pickles was a Smith Square plant with the orders to destroy Municipal Socialism in Bradford . http://www.1in12.com/publications/archive/thepicklespapers.html he certainly subscribes to chaos theory

    There’s a lot of stuff the Tories would have liked to have done in the late 80’s and in the Majorite 90’s that they are doing now bar Lilley introducing UNUM Provident into the scheme of things …all the problems with the glorified scam …ESA ” assessments ” and ATOS Origin date back to that era …New Labour merely gave the Tories open goals to be ruthlessly exploited…the ultimate goal is a US style welfare and health system http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/site/article_comments/atos_notes_on_a_neoliberal_scandal http://lindanee.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/unumprovident-and-unum-group-whats-changed/ …that they daren’t do because of riots over Poll Tax etc ….however the clock can’t be turned back to that era …a bunch of losers looting ” Poundland ” just plays into Cameron’s hands ….if there’s resistance ….there has to be far more guile ?

    • Thank you for all the references. I have written about much of this but with information gathered from different sources. Unfortunately, this analysis can still be dismissed as a bit OTT which is the ‘ridicule’ bit of the cycle described in my initial sentence to this piece. That which is happening in Greece and Spain, indicates the momentum moving us into the ‘attack’ phase as people are beginning to resist. Part of the problem in understanding, is that the ‘super-rich’ behave and think very differently to most people. On the whole, the average person just wants to get on with their life. The idea of a group of unimaginable wealth being intent on accumulating still more, and wanting to stitch up the rest of us to ensure that they continue to accumulate more and more, is incomprehensible. However, I have no doubt that it is happening and that the naivety of many politicians, let alone the electorate, has left the door wide open.

      The one good thing is that this government has alienated and cut the numbers of both the police and the army. In contrast, Margaret Thatcher increased their pay:)

      • Cameron’s introducing private armies though, G4S and the Kellog/Halliburtons. That’s why the police and army are being run down, they’re being replaced by people with corporate loyalties as opposed to any national ones.

  4. How do we get this on front page news in words of one syllable that even the most disengaged will understand and be incensed by? I try to cover across the political spectrum in my news reading and I’m positive this incendiary piece of Maude’s didnt hit the mainstream (sorry Tribune) when it should have been by megaphone across all the popular news media.
    I have been wondering for the last 2 years whether the Condems were just bumbling incompetents or they were following a ‘master’ plan dreamed up by an outsider as the sequence of their actions (often executed with incompetence, which is where I think they do have free will, in spades) absolutely has a strategy and specific goal. That they published their early bills so early in the administration suggested that they were being guided an ‘the invisible hand’ – but many of us have become so cynical that I thought I was just allowing my imagination to run amok.
    McKinsey certainly have form and of course we now know a commercial interest in all of this happening. They are excellent at analysis – but have often reached the wrong conclusions (http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2011/03/is-mckinsey-co-the-root-of-all-evil/). Where their clients know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, the public sector in the UK serves up the perfect opportunity. The H&SC Bill, if crafted by McKinsey as is widely rumoured, is a case in point, they seem to believe healthcare can be run on a model akin to KwikFit service centres.
    All of these ‘benefits’ and ‘common goods’ which give us democracy and civility, many of our parents laid their lives down for. Its a slow motion train crash with the ultimate and presently unstoppable horror of an end point unimaginable in our times and by the general public.
    How to make the majority angry enough to do something about it though? What WILL it take?

    • Great comment! I completely agree. We need to support Tribune, The Morning Star and Red Pepper who are always in danger of folding but are virtually the only ones to report this sort of news… I think putting the Tribune reference on Telegraph, Independent and Guardian threads also does get it read but ultimately we need to radically rethink access to information. The BBC and the ‘free-press’ let us down all the time. Eventually, people realise what has happened but by then it is too late in the day. IMO that is why these bills were pushed through so quickly.

      • People are beginning to realise. The news about limbless servicemen being ineligble for disability benefits is beginning to make the nationals. It’s only a small step from there to people realising that anyone at all with those difficulties is ineligble for disability benefits. I don’t believe they yet know that even if you’ve got no legs at all if you can mobilise a short distance in your wheelchair you’re no longer considered eligble for disability. No, now you’re expected to turn up regularly at the job centre looking for work. Take up thy wheelchair and work! This won’t go down well with the public at all as it’s not at all the scenario they’ve been fed by the politicians and the media. They’re going to start wondering why this hasn’t been reported before. This will encourage some to turn away from the popular press and bloggers/tweeters will gain in stature by comparison (as, of course, they should:-) ).

      • syzygysue: the reason I was able to find your link was as a result of reading Richard Murphy’s http://www.taxresearch.org.uk blog which I have been following for about 9 months now – and as a result have been introduced to Green Benches and other interesting blogs where at least we know we are not alone. As for the BBC,especially the news – I have been shocked at how partisan they have become and find myself questioning EVERYTHING they report with a ‘who benefits by them taking this stance?’. Although social media is fabulous for spreading the word – it has become so populous and fragmented that it is difficult for the majority, myself included, to track down the affirmative, informative and factual information within the time one can afford. At least with a limited number of hardprint national newspapers (which are then also available to the nearly 50% of the population that havent got unfettered access to the internet) people know which way they lean politically and the choice is focussed. Therefore, IMO, the audience more captive. I suspect we are in that perfect storm of only just coming out of denial towards realisation, with some early adopters of anger and some trailing still in disbelief, but not yet at a sufficient level of anger to galvanise people to action. BUT the lightening speed with which the Condems are moving (further proof that the whole thing was worked out in opposition courtesy of their rich backers??) doesnt give us much time before some of what they are breaking will be too expensive for we 99%, who do pay our fair share, to fix.
        From all the polls – and from whichever persuasion – citizens are quite prepared to make sacrifices to help balance the books even if if does curtail some of the pleasures heretofore enjoyed. There is no way any of them would be prepared to so do if they realised that what is really happening is a straight pick pocketing from them to the Bransons, Greens, Serco’s, A4Es etc who definitely do not pay their fair share. And then we also have a great many people who are just worn down trying to muddle through and dont have the energy to engage until one of their nearest and dearest is personally affected.
        Even in the moderate blogs (and I consider Richard Murphy’s one) and surprisingly even on the Daily Mail comments pages (!!) we are starting to see talk of revolution and revolt.
        I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that one of the Left’s barriers is its morality. This elite group of carpetbaggers, the 1%, have no morality or scruples about what they are doing, neither to democracy nor to the very people of this country who have created the conditions for them to enjoy the unwarranted wealth they now hold. Responding by violence would immediately lose the argument, responding with reasonableness however is less than pointless – reasonable people do not get their message broadcast through the morass of chaff that this government use as countermeasures.
        The only way to stop the Condems and their backers is where it hurts and that means by taking the gravy train away – either take away the money or the power, or both as they are so interlinked. Looking at Greece, you can see how nationalist and country supportive their economic elite are – they have been moving their cash and assets to safe havens, including the UK housing market and offshore tax havens, by the wheelbarrow load to ensure that they are alright whilst their countryfolk are hung out to dry. Exactly the same has been happening here. Industry sitting on £750 billion, refusing to pay their fair share and then complaining because the infrastructure doesnt work and the people are uneducated. The cleansing of vast swathes of London to ensure that the oligarchs (plus their new Russian, Chinese, MiddleEastern etc friends) are not bothered by ‘the little people’ has only just started, but the gated communities started big time under Labour. Its not just economic, its cultural as well. Time for something new, clever (as in devious) and really hard hitting. Unfortunately it is likely to take a major austerity tragedy or crime against humanity (as NoW hacking with Millie Dowlers phone) to galvanise people. The answer usually comes not from the centre but from the outside – and often unexpectedly. So is one of the responses to ensure that we have all of the ducks (ie a catalogue of truths) lined up, ready to launch the ‘and another thing’, as soon as the unexpected happens? And in the interim to be very clear about what future we do want, and how that will manifest itself. Because I dont think that we can look to a future where those who have exercised this scorched earth policy can be allowed to keep those ill gotten gains – which is what they intend and will achieve with the Condems/help. That money belongs to the people and its time that it was returned.

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