25 January 2018
Diary of a Corbynista
PFI, Outsourcing, Boris and Fake News
by Don Urquhart
The National Audit Office (NAO) reports that financing projects such as schools and hospitals privately costs taxpayers billions of pounds more than public sector alternatives. At the height of Gordon Brown’s creative accounting, I worked for a bank heavily into PFI and questioned the ethics with our structured finance people. They pointed out the close relationship between the low hanging fruit of PFI and my annual bonus. It was axiomatic that it was virtually riskless for the bank. At the other end of things I recently met with a hospital consultant who was clearly depressed. “What’s up?” Two things: priority operations for his patients being rescheduled by hospital administrators without reference to the clinicians, and the cost of PFI which was bleeding the hospital dry.
There can be very few people left in this country who feel that the outsourcing of Work Capability Assessments to the likes of Atos and Capita has led to a humane and rational approach to the benefits system. Last year the UN condemned our treatment of disabled people as “a human catastrophe”. The Scots are now planning to take devolved control of benefits. One of the planned improvements is to permit claimants to have someone with them when they are assessed. What does that tell us about the way such interviews are currently conducted in England?
There’s a lot going on in the world that I don’t agree with. Were I a Turk living on the Syrian border I might not agree with Haringey Borough’s ethnic cleansing policy but would feel powerless to influence it. The Turkish government is currently shelling the Syrian border region of Afrin because the dominant ethnicity is Kurdish. I am powerless to influence the Turkish government but our government could ensure that we do not provide weapons to either side. Fat chance of that!
“Despite the idealistic rhetoric, I would expect any actual action to be some years away and reserved only for the most extreme cases.”
These are the words of former Pensions Minister Steve Webb commenting on the Prime Minister’s announcement of a white paper to set out “tough new rules” for bosses of companies running a pension deficit. It’s a proposal which will make Tory donors uncomfortable until they realise that the PM is just kicking the can down the road.
Mogens Glistrup founder of the Danish Progress Party proposed that the country’s defence measures should consist simply of a recorded message – “We surrender” in Russian. General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the British Army, offers a different perspective. He is due to make a speech today at the Royal United Services Institute and will propose that we spend enough to keep up with Russia and China. Somewhere between Glistrup and Carter there is a happy medium that keeps us all safe without spending too much of the hard-earned on weaponry.
Political Survival 101 for the Tory Party says hang together and all sing the same song. It seems that several Tory MP’s are not happy with the Government’s lack of dynamism. It is something when even Sir Nicholas Soames is having a pop at a Tory Prime Minister. Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s Chief of Staff has advised against focussing on the NHS because Labour will always win that argument. Now along comes Boris arguing for an extra £100 million a week for the Health Service. You would have thought that this would be his last act as a member of the Cabinet before following his Dad into the jungle.
Announcing the creation of a “fake news” unit a spokesman for the Prime Minister said:
“We are living in an era of fake news and competing narratives.”
Last month the BBC launched a project aimed at helping young people identify fake news. It’s not clear to what extent the Government and the BBC are coordinating initiatives but it is to be hoped that black propaganda will be covered by both. If they want a starting point:
“The truth about this is that under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership we have seen the rise of nasty violent social media campaigning… there’s anti-Semitic language, there’s racist language a nasty misogynistic intolerant strain like the old left.”
The words of George Freeman MP who yesterday was allowed to turn the BBC Daily Politics programme into a Party Political Broadcast.