Wednesday, 4 February 2015

What a Waste: Corporate Power and One Nation Labour


During last night's Newsnight Emily Maitlis didn't have to work too hard to get Ed Balls to blather nonsense about Labour' special relationship with big business. So poor was Balls' performance that shame and humiliation has been heaped upon him today (and rightly so):

The most that the hapless Balls could muster, was that some geezer called Bill had helped the new, shiny One Nation Labour Party out at some point. So pathetic was Balls last night that a quick Google of "Balls, Bill Newsnight" will reveal plenty of crowing amongst rightwing media outlets and the general political punditry. Oh dear.

It all could have and should have been so different, but Balls' appearance was made all the worse as in appearing to want to cozy even further up to corporate interests (following some pushing and shoving between Miliband and the bloke that owns Boots) he, and the rest of the shadow treasury team just looked shambolic.

Trust me, and trust the corporates: Ummuna
defended Labour's reliance on accountancy firms
advice on taxation policy
As I reported late last year, Transparency International has spent time documenting the financial and policy implications for Labour of allowing the big accountancy firms determine taxation (and other) manifesto plans: It shouldn't be surprising, but even the timid, flaccid pro-business, pro-austerity stance of One Nation New Labour rankles corporate interests so much that all manner of plutocrat, flunky and CEO hoping for a seat in the Lords, is lining up to put the boot into Miliband.

The evidence of corporate greed, waste and general incompetence surrounds us in abundance, not least when examining the role of the private sector when delivering public sector services.

The fiasco at Hitchingbrooke is the last in a long-line of disasters which leaves the taxpayer paying for another neo-liberal experiment. And over at the National Audit Office (NAO), there is profound concern that, not only has too much been spent on Academies that cannot be accounted for, no evidence exists which shows they make a real, lasting difference to children's educational performance:,

Of course corporate interests are laying into One Nation Labour; far too much unaccountable power and money is at stake. Sadly, in the run-up to the general election, Balls et al are far too scared to admit this, and poor old Bill will remain as the business rabbit ready to be pulled out of the 'we love business' hat.
Expensive experiment not improving
children's learning outcomes

The data/literature which supports a deep suspicion of the private sector in the public sector (and of creeping corporate power undermining the government/state in general) piles up and to top it all in June a team of academics from the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) at Manchester University publish What a Waste: Outsourcing and how it goes wrong.

The book is the first authoritative account of the scale of outsourcing in the UK, and of the disastrous impact on the political/economic fabric of the UK. As the book hasn't been published yet details are not easily available (get hold of a copy of the latest publications from Manchester Univ Press for details) but the marketing blurb states:

This is the first ever book to analyse outsourcing – contracting out public services to private business interests. It is an unacknowledged revolution in the British economy, and it has happened quietly, but it is creating powerful new corporate interests, transforming the organisation of government at all levels, and is simultaneously enriching a new business elite and creating numerous fiascos in the delivery of public services. This book, by the renowned research team at the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change in Manchester, is the first to combine ‘follow the money’ research with accessibility for the engaged citizen, and the first to balance critique with practical suggestions for policy reform.
Would Balls read this if I
sent a copy?
An allied book, "The end of the experiment?," is featured in a blog from the book's team - and its dominant themes are discussed in four, fascinating articles which revolve around the principal focus of the profound failure of successive governments since Thatcher to engender a strategic, long-term coherent sense of how to grow and stabilise the British economy, other than of course to assume that 'there is no alternative' to neo-liberalism. A snippet from the first article states:
For over thirty years now we have lived through a new experiment, symbolically inaugurated by the victory of Thatcherite Conservatism in 1979, but an era of experimentation which also encompassed the heady years of New Labour domination. That experiment had several well known features.  It created ‘flexible’ labour markets;  it dismantled the command economy represented by publicly owned industries;  it placed a bet on the creation of a ‘branch’ economy in manufacturing in a global division of labour, and on a financial services revolution in London; it prompted an outsourcing revolution which saw numerous public services franchised to private corporations; it created an audit state; and it ushered in a new era of micromanagement by the Whitehall elite.
 The blog, and the four articles are available here:
It'll be interesting to see how the Balls/Miliband baiting plays out in the run-up to the election, and whether (other than the fine job undertaken by Margaret Hodge as chair of the Public Accounts Committee) anyone in Labour's frontbench team decide to quote from the eminent research of the Manchester team - sadly unlikely.

What we've got to hope for is a growing public consciousness that private sector adventures in the public sector degrade and destroy lives and corrupt the moral fabric of the body politic.
There will, no doubt, more to report on this over the next few months, and I'll do my best to draw attention to the best evidence to refute the philosophy behind the experiment.
In Solidarity


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