If you are genuinely wanting change, someone who will support the people and a Prime Minister who truly cares, then he has been staring at you in the face since his Labour leadership win in September 2015. What Mr Corbyn offers on the surface doesn’t particularly sound threatening. However, you would be mistaken for believing he was the anti-christ the way he has been hounded not only by the Tories as expected but by his own party. The truth is most of the noise permeating within his own ranks have come from the direction of the Parliamentary Labour Party. A group of MP’s still adhering to the New Labour, Blairite philosophy, which espouses a neoliberal doctrine not profoundly different from the other bunch sat across from them in ‘the house’. It is deeply disconcerting when the PLP have more in common with exceptionally right-wing Tories than they have with their socialist leader. This is also a Parliamentary Labour Party that has increasingly lost touch with grassroots Labour voters, the majority of whom are screaming out for real change. Not only that, but it is a PLP that has nothing to offer future voters. It is just the same old corporate driven, establishment riddled crap that a lot of people up and down the UK are sick of. So the question has to be, why? Why is the right flank of the Labour Party clinging on to the broken branch of capitalism. Particularly when there is a clear opening to attack the Tories with both barrels from an anti-austerity and failed policy perspective, that would clearly define battle lines of parliamentary debate.
For just one moment, imagine we are all at a party, the DJ has finished playing music, the bar has closed, the lights have come back on after the last dance and most people are standing outside waiting for their taxi to take them home after a good night. You notice in the corner of the room a small but boisterous group, hugely intoxicated, yelling at the DJ to carry on playing the music, “the night is young, oh go on, we’ve just started”. Even though the DJ is packing away his stuff, getting in his car and the bar stopped serving drinks an hour ago, this delusional, greedy minority insists that everybody else should carry on, because they haven’t had enough. Now transport yourself back to the present day and this is what we are facing in the political arena. Most people are aware either consciously or possibly in the deepest recesses of their mind that something isn’t right and that the world for whatever reason seems a troubled place. A large section of the population realises that capitalism isn’t really working any more, if indeed it ever did. The establishment which consists of politicians, CEO’s, journalists and all the other appendages of a bloated defunct system, such as think tanks and advocacy groups just can’t let it go. Their propaganda is peddled by influential media magnets such as Rupert Murdoch who dictate the political narrative for the masses. This system of neoliberalism that has been created in many western societies doesn’t and cannot work to solve our biggest challenges we have ahead. Yet there is a tiny percentage of the UK who simply cannot throw the towel in, who push to keep it alive no matter what the outcome and for no other reason than they gain exponentially from this damaging status quo. To return to the original metaphor, they blatantly refuse to drink up, step into a taxi and call it a night.
With all this in mind, Jeremy Corbyn is an unmitigated disaster for the establishment, an honest, caring, compassionate leader. Who, with a growing support that share in his values could be a serious roadblock to the neoliberal juggernaut that has swept the globe over the past 40 years. But wait, hang on, maybe the people are gravely mistaken, just maybe the ruling elite are the ones who know better, as they appear to insist. So lets examine some of Jeremy Corbyn’s political core beliefs, to see where he may be going wrong.
- the NHS should remain a public service and not be privatised
- the welfare must be there to protect us in times of need
- the withdrawal from wars on foreign soil
- social housing should be available for everyone
- nationalisation of the railways
Well they all seem to make a lot of sense from a moral point of view; it appears he wants to look after the poor, provide affordable services and use the armed forces to protect our shoreline. It all sounds fine, however, predictably at about this point people of a right-wing persuasion are possibly yelling at the screen demanding to know how Jeremy proposes to pay for these crazy policies. So let us have a look at what neoliberals believe and then we will refer back to the above list. We can then attempt to make sense of these differing views from both a moral and financial perspective.
Firstly, it may be useful to backtrack a little and clarify what is meant by neoliberalism. It must be noted that this is a doctrine currently subscribed to by the ruling Tory party and approximately 172 PLP members. Neoliberalism is primarily an economic system, the goal of which is to eliminate government regulations, trade barriers and trade tariffs. It’s ideological views also include shrinking government, therefore, reducing its input, whilst privatising as many facets of society as possible. In the fantastic book ‘The Shock Doctrine’ Naomi Klein highlighted 3 important tenets to this system.
- Privatisation – this includes handing over health, education, public transport, utilities amongst others over to private control.
- Government deregulation – such as removing environmental protections, decreasing workers’ rights and the deregulation of the financial sector.
- Deep cuts to social spending – for instance healthcare, welfare and public services.
With all this in mind the neoliberal argument would generally suggest that privatising services would decrease government spending. They would opine that by selling state owned services to private ownership, quality would improve due to competition, therefore, the companies involved and people using the services would benefit. So firstly, lets look at government spending, the quality of services in relation to privatisation and explore if this claim really holds any water.
We start by investigating the UK’s railways. A report in 2013 written by the Centre for Research on Social-Cultural Change at the University of Manchester stated that private train companies were ‘heavily dependent upon the public purse’ to enable them to run services. The report also highlighted that the top 5 private rail companies received £3 billion in government subsidies between 2007-2011, this allowed these companies during this period to make £504 million in profit, of which £466 million were paid out to their shareholders. The report also indicated that the average train fares in the UK have increased by three times the rate of average wages between 2008 and 2012. As Owen Jones mentions in his fantastic resource ‘The Establishment’, the French rail system is almost entirely publicly funded with virtually the same amount of funding as the UK pay in subsidies and yet French rail tickets prices are much lower than in Britain. The final point I’d like to make on the railways is; in 2013 the East Coast mainline was the most efficient rail company in the UK. In that year just 1% of the profits the company made were from subsidies, compared to an average of 36% from the other rail franchises. What is more staggering is that the East Coast mainline during this period was publicly owned. This information is contrary to what neoliberal enthusiasts would have you believe, regarding efficiency, value and cost of the private sector. Call me Mr Picky, but it would appear that the state subsidies only function is to provide these private entities with a profit. I’ve got a radical plan, let’s do away with the private companies and put the money we use for subsidies directly towards a national rail system. Just saying.
Next up, lets look at a permanently hot topic in the UK, the NHS. I will be blunt, the NHS has been slowly privatised by stealth since at least 2006 whilst under the control of Tony Blair and ‘New Labour’. As a former member of the NHS, I can also bare witness to the use of private ‘bank staff’ because of an unwillingness of NHS trusts to employ permanent staff members. Even though the ‘bank staff’ were paid colossal amounts of money to do what was often an inferior job. Nationally in 2014 it was estimated that £6.5bn was spent on the private sector in an effort to get them to see patients, this works out as 6.1% of the total NHS budget. It is also known that this figure has increased dramatically since 2014, possibly as much as 500%. It is quite evident that the general plan from the Conservative Party is to underfund the NHS, which will result in declining services. At which point the government will declare that the only way to deal with this problem is by further privatising the NHS, the details of this plan is highlighted in an article written in 2015. The question is, would wholly privatising the NHS be more efficient? I realise there are many factors when comparing expenditures between countries, however, looking at the graph below, it would appear that privatisation would not be ideal, for the general public that is.
Which ever way you look at the figures, the UK pays substantially less than the US per capita for healthcare. The US is a private health insurance scheme and although it has been revised in recent times, it is still predominantly a private system. I also conclude that, a lot of the Conservative Party’s attempts to privatise the NHS is no more than an ideological decision. In 2005 the current Secretary of State for Health co-authored a piece of literature called ‘Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party’ in which it called for the NHS to be replaced with an American style insurance scheme. I can only surmise that other people would benefit from this action and this I assume would not be the patients or the taxpayer.
I have provided two examples; the rail system and the NHS as evidence of how privatisation fails in providing an improved and efficient system as the neoliberals would like you to believe. The same issues of spiraling costs and inadequate services, due to the use of private companies can be seen all over, including the department of work and pensions, education, and the prison service. The reason is quite simple, private companies are there to chase profits and will cut back on quality as much as they can provided they retain their contracts.
So lets us return to our initial hero Jeremy Corbyn; this is a man determined to put the masses and those in need first, not corporations, profit or a tiny elite. This type of politics of genuinely serving the people, hasn’t been prevalent in a very long time. This absence of compassionate politics could quite conceivably cause some people to be skeptical, either because they don’t trust its sincerity or they may feel it wouldn’t work. However, Mr Corbyn has been found on the right side history repeatedly. He has spent his entire political career fighting for people all over the world; whether that was for the anti-apartheid movement, his stand against the Iraq War or more recently in opposition to the bombing of Syria. It’s my opinion that Jeremy Corbyn’s role is to encourage the UK towards a different kind of politics and to show the public that MP’s can maintain integrity and honesty, whilst delivering policies that help the 99%. The masses need to be enlightened to alternative solutions regarding our problems rather than neoliberalism. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has to become a strong, effective opposition, with distinct values from the right wing, austerity obsessed Conservative Party.