Last month, I took my Peugeot 308SW into a main dealer for its 12,000 mile service. A woman on service reception rang me later in the day. I call her Mrs Chirpy-Truculent, because she has this uncannily irritating knack of sounding like she’s on amphetamines and steroids at one and the same time. She also talks bollocks non-stop.
On this occasion, Mrs C-T scam told me that my front tyres were illegal and did I want to replace them. I said no (my local tyre dealer costs 20% less). A week afterwards, I noticed a scraping sound on braking, and so drove the car up the road to Gavin, my local mechanic. Gavin is proper mechanic in that he listens to symptoms and then diagnoses the problem. Main dealers perform a service process and sell you stuff that’s unnecessary, because they aren’t selling any cars at the moment.
Gavin rang me about an hour later to say all four disc brakes needed new pads, and only my prompt reaction had avoided serious damage to the plates. He also confirmed that the front tyres have another 2,000 miles on them at least.
Nobody reading this will regard my experience as even rare, let alone unique. It’s called ‘Peugeot is a blue-chip quoted company that needs to keep the results up in a depressed market, so when they’re not selling cars to the Chinese, they’re selling overpriced pointless spares to mugs in the EU’. The analysts, shareholders and directors are happy, a few more workers will lose their jobs so that the CEO can talk about ‘rationalised headcount’ at the AGM, and gradually things get worse and worse and worse for the customer.
The big-business culture in the West has – slowly at first but now increasingly rapidly – gone down the pan. It’s largely to do with a drive for derugalation and red-tape cutting being sloppily superimposed onto a culture that every year gets closer to the goal of Absolute Zero Ethics. Neo-liberal economists smile and applaud…having spectacularly failed to notice that the bureaucracy headcount is higher than it’s ever been before. Shareholders and fat-cats have prospered, but for taxpayers, the ill, the old, and the customer, everything has become much worse. The sole benefit we have is that things get done more quickly these days – i.e., the service is better. But as in the Peugeot anecdote outlined above, the content of that service consists of duping the customer and supplying poor-quality goods that will need replacing before too long. It’s the only way this model of capitalism can keep the show on the road.
Since May 2010, the 23 private companies working with the NHS have made £1.4 billion in profit. Next year they will make even more, because the monies that should’ve gone into hospital updates and hardware budgets have been diverted towards primary care practitioners preparing to work with and/or hand over to big suppliers in the private sector. It’s perfectly obvious that, starved of funds, within the next eighteen months many local hospital Trusts will either go bust, or require increased private sector services which in turn point to the need for some form of private sector merger, takeover or joint venture. In the meantime, the waiting lists will continue to lengthen – which is just what the private sector wants, because (a) that’s how they make money supplying ad hoc services, and (b) it makes their case against ‘NHS inefficiency’ even stronger.
Thus, what Lansley is really at (and always was) consists of what Labour rightly (for once) calls creeping privatisation. But in reality, a better descriptor would be stealth privatisation. Or even stealth distortion towards privatisation’s ultimate goal – There Is No Alternative. TINA will usher in – entirely by deception – a new era of healthcare in which Time goes backwards at an exponential rate towards that era when fear of falling ill haunted every family on limited means. (For a full and convincing dissection of how this is being done, I highly recommend the website Green Benches being run by Dr Eoin Clarke).
The NHS could not have continued the way it was – especially in the light of the financial lunacy and economic incompetence from which the UK is now slowly dying as a viable concern. I loathe the entire phalanx of Hands off our NHS marching because it is inept, Luddite and dishonest. The 1947 NHS is unsustainable in 2012 (it was by 1979) and the main opposition to change is Trade Union driven purely to protect jobs for their members. The answer (and any blue-collar American will tell you this, in graphic detail) is not to hand over control to a bunch of insurers who will make NICE look like the ultimate in philanthropy. Insurance-model health provision only works for a tiny rich, senior-corporate, well-connected minority. Whereas a proper, coummunity-mutalised business providing NFP healthcare would flourish – avoding the private sector greed and the Unionised protectionism.
Lansley’s Grand Design is a muddled (or deliberately obfuscatory) exercise in doing what Western politicians cannot stop doing: pretending to apply what they position as ideal-world solutions to a less than ideal world.
In Britain, the Left is no different to the Right in this respect. Tessa Jowell’s ludicrous 24/7 boozing laws became law on the basis of studies done in countries with no cultural binge-drinking problem. Those places (like Ireland) where the experiment had been quickly reversed, were completely ignored. And sadly, into this mix too must be added the nasty – and never satisfactorily explained – conflict of interest she faced, given that her husband held large numbers of Brewery shares.
Labour’s ideas on multiculturalism are based on woolly and disproved theories about the inevitability of full immigrant integration. Its expensive and widely hated feminist equality workplace legislation is in turn based on Harriet Harman’s frozen-in-amber view of how gender differences function socially. The Family Courts approach to social care simply fails to grasp why such a policy was thought to be necessary in the first place: viz, cock-eyed, discredited ideas about the role of family and State in providing a stable society.
Why does the political Establishment do this?
Conspiracy theorists of both Left and Right will always want to see a long-term macro plot in the various approaches of the political class, but I don’t buy it…on the whole. The main factor by far is ignorant incompetence – followed closely by self- protection. The higher up the Party foodchain one gets, however, the more self-protection becomes the dominant factor.
There is a very simple reason for this: the Party you lead – and from which comes a fat living in every imaginable way – has to be preserved as an entity at all costs. There is no worse fate imaginable for a contemporary pol than a threat to the existence of the organisation that maintains and nurtures his or her lifestyle. It is therefore, in an almost surreal way, always in a Minister’s interests to do those things that keep the Party machine oiled and serviced.
In both cases, the maintenance agent required above all others by a Party is money and votes. Whether it’s Labour ensuring the survival of a dependent class while keeping the Trade Unions in the cage, or the Conservative Party cutting taxes alongside doing the bidding of private health providers, property developers or depraved media barons, every last policy must fulfil the twin requirements of contributions to the coffers and majorities in the constituencies.
Tessa Jowell always knew the downside of 24/7 drinking; but she also knew it was the desired policy of young, downmarket drinkers – over 80% of whom usually support the Labour Party. Andrew Lansley is fully aware of how dysfunctional, unfair and inflationary the NHS privatisation will be; but it will always play well as a policy in Middle England, and bring in millions of Pounds of donations from the private health sector. Various Labour Immigration Ministers knew exactly for whom the flood of immigrants after 2000 would vote – them. The Tories today know that relaxing rural development laws is no way to solve the overpopulation problem, but doing that ensures that the annual £3.5m contribution from the construction industry will continue to roll in.
The sole reason the Conservative Party is defending the indefensible nature of The Sun, the Murdochs, Brooks and Hunt is because they continue to believe that no election can be won without Newscorp, and they believe the BBC to be a hotbed of Communism that must be destroyed. And the only reason Labour’s Tom Watson refuses to apply his excoriating press criticism to the Trinity Mirror Group is because he (and most of the UNITE Union) believe it would be a disaster if Labour lost its last loyal supporter in Fleet Street…especially with the Guardian going rapidly down the pan.
Taking privileged and monied interests out of politics is the most urgent task we face as a country. It won’t be done because it would, overnight, destroy the Whips-led control held by Party Executives over the political process, and break up the Left-Right slapstick masquerading as debate.
The other part of the Daft Policy explanation – incompetent ignorance – is the direct result of recruiting new Party election candidates from the wannabe political class – rather than from the ranks of creative social and economic thinkers. Brought in from a life devoid of social reality and commercial perspective, these people become obedient Lobby fodder, very easily sucked into the hermetically-sealed fantasy inhabited by these uncommonly strange people. They in turn climb up the ranks, and formulate yet more policies designed to maintain their lifestyles, keep the money flowing in, and feed their ignorant bigotry about life outside Westminster.
Guess how many of the current 640 MPs have ever completed a degree in socio-economic anthropology? None. Not one.
Thus the second most important task is to abolish the Whipping system, and hand some Executive powers back to a more sensibly chosen legislature. That too has two chances of coming to pass – for the same obvious reasons.
We are stuck with a political class raising more drawbridges more frequently every year. So as I keep on insisting, trying to apply peaceful pressure to achieve reform of it is an utter waste of time and money.
I am also opposed to violent methods to achieve political change. It attracts the mad folks like bees to honey, and history teaches us that it nearly always ends in a circular progression of tears, after which one winds back to where one started. Force only ever pays for the munitions dealers, the security agencies, and the dictators.
We must instead turn our attention to the paymasters of the political class, and put commercial pressure on them. This can be done quite legally and with far more rapid effectiveness than might be possible via the Palace of Westminster. I write this down as a conclusion, on average, about once a month. Since the last time I did so, George Galloway has been re-elected to the Commons using the exact same principle, the only difference being that he applied pressure to a religious rather than a commercial tribe. Because Nigel Average can’t get his head round this concept either, eighteen years after it launched and in the midst of EU meltdown, a virulently anti-EU Party still doesn’t have a single national Parliamentary seat.
“That’s because the system’s unfair,” he whines. Of course it is: and the Liberals spent 45 years campaigning on that basis without getting anywhere. It won’t change because it is part of the defence armoury of the Establishment described earlier in this piece. Get real Nige, you’re pissing in the wind mate.
For me, the conclusion is very straightforward. To get radical and realistic policies applied to our problems by a political class blessed with the relevant experience and not beholden to the greedy, we will have to bring down the existing Party structures and take all monied influence out of politics. Ironically, the only way to achieve that is to develop a power base whose aim is to make life harder for those very interests….so they unwittingly urge the kind of political reforms that will, in the end, remove their malign political influence.
Please don’t ask me for The Plan in detail. That’s like suggesting I build a rocket to Mars before persuading people they want to go there. The first step is a simple one: choose an issue, apply the pressure – and watch organisations you previously thought unassailable fold at dramatic speed.