And, in one variant form or another, for pretty much everything they have responsibility for that bears the word “service”. Education; libraries; social housing; prisons; the police; you name it.
That’s not to say they want to see the end of all these valuable things entirely. They just want to replace the spirit of service with the spirit of free enterprise. Which is not the same thing at all.
The drive to convert public institutions into private money-making schemes has been central to Tory policy since the rise of Margaret Thatcher. It was just as brutal in her day, but there’s an added sneakiness about it now. The honest word “privatisation” is hidden behind the weaselly euphemism “reform”.
Faith schools, so-called “free” schools (there’s a classic piece of Orwellian doublespeak for you), Theresa May’s beloved grammar schools, academies and that most disturbing of trends the multi-academy trust are all semi-disguised steps on the route to privatising the whole education system.
The “right to buy” masquerades as a help to ordinary people. In fact, it’s a way of transferring public housing stock into private hands. So wages – or housing benefits – go into the hands of private landlords rather than being reinvested in more and better social housing.
A few cash in at the expense of the many. Tory philosophy in a nutshell.
Meanwhile, in America, Trump’s puppetmaster Steve Bannon has all but admitted that the president’s cabinet nominees were deliberately chosen to dismantle the departments they head. Rather like Jeremy Hunt here.
Hunt’s policy is surreptitious but clearly defined – and though he hasn’t exactly admitted it, it’s working well.
Run a service into the ground, deprive it of resources, disrupt it through supposed “reforms”, mistreat and demean its professionals. Then say it’s “broken” and needs fixing.
Which is a pretext for handing it over to companies whose interest is not in providing a good service but in making a good profit.
Talk of the NHS seems so often to revolve around how much money goes into it. But what that simplistic formula overlooks is the crucial matter of where the money goes.
If the answer to that is “private firms”, then someone somewhere is taking money from your National Insurance payments and pocketing it as profit.
And they might not even be British pockets, if Trump’s limp handshake with May means what it appears to.
Two things some other people may be used to happened to me last week for the first time:
- I turned round in the park when someone called my name, only to realise a moment later that it was their dog they were yelling at.
- Then a young man offered me his seat on the Tube. Nice to know there are still some polite youngsters out there. But do I really look that old or infirm? In another 20 years, maybe – but then, I don’t intend to be travelling in London in 20 years’ time.
While I was in the Smoke, I took in the Royal Academy exhibition Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932. It’s a big exhibition in every sense, well laid out, utterly fascinating and more varied than you might expect. As always at such events, though, the sheer press of people makes it difficult to take in properly the works on show – and tiring to try.
After soaking in the tragic story of bright hopes and horrific outcomes, the ultimate irony comes right at the end. Beyond the end, in fact, as you are funnelled out through the gift shop. Capitalism’s final revenge.
Russian Revolution colouring-in book, anyone?