Railways: A Manifestation Of Thatcherism

During the post-war period the railways were nationalised after years of neglect by private owners, in many ways they were seen as key to building and enhancing Britain’s infrastructure.

Thatcherism changed all of that.

Two of its key aims were to sell off the family silver and enrich its supporters, so it was with Major’s breakup of the railways.

The net result is a poorer, accident prone railway system which rewards management failure and pays individual workers a pittance.

More examples of this Thatherite attitude has been seen recently:

“Network Rail has paid out £630,000 to four of its executive directors as a portion of their long-term incentive plan (L-tip) to reflect the organisation’s performance in the period 2009-12.

However, Network Rail’s remuneration committee decided to reduce the award by 20% to take into account specific safety and train performance issues.

Patrick Butcher, finance director, was awarded £168,000, while Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations and Simon Kirby, managing director of infrastructure projects, were awarded £158,000, and Paul Plummer, group strategy director was awarded £148,000. Chief executive David Higgins did not qualify because he was not with the organisation in 2009.”

In July 2012 even the Torygraph was moved to comment:

“The taxpayer-backed company is once again at the centre of a political row, after it put forward plans to pay five directors an extra £2.6 million under two new schemes.

Under the proposals, three directors at the company will get payments of £300,000 each in 2014 just for turning up to work for the next two years.”

It pointed out the dismal record of Network Rail’s management:

“Two months later, the operator was fined £4 million over the Grayrigg rail disaster that killed one person and seriously injured 28 others.

Within the last two years, Network Rail has also been fined £1 million over the deaths of two school girls at a level crossing in 2005 and £3 million over the Potters Bar crash in 2002 that left seven dead.

The company is also under pressure over its punctuality, leaving it in danger of a £42 million fine. It has a target of running 92 per cent of trains on time – or less than ten minutes late.

At the moment, it is only providing 89.2 per cent of services within these limits, risking a £1.5 million fine for each 0.1 per cent below the target. “

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Orwell, Atos and The Tories

Like many, I have read most of Orwell’s work, discussed and debated what he was trying to get at and even questioned some of his later decisions. Not unsurprisingly there is a lot to get to grips with. He was a multifaceted character living in turbulent times and profoundly affected by it.

David Aaronovitch does an excellent job in presenting the views of various scholars, friends and associates of Orwell. Nicely balanced. Over at the BBC Iplayer, The Road to Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Readers will remember how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) outsourced to Atos, eligibility assessments of the disabled. Atos, in return, have been roundly criticised for declaring people to be “fit for work” only to have them die a few weeks later. Charities and other organisations connected with disabilities have pointed out the flaws in Atos’s methodology.

But now, in a bizarre twist, Atos are outsourcing many of those assessments to the NHS.

So the Public sector outsources to the private sector, a nasty task, who in turn outsource it back to parts of, the once, Public sector.

Atos is using this to deflect criticism on how many of those declared fit either die or end up destitute, whilst Atos rakes in millions.

From Lebanon, Hezbollah has been attacking Syrians with rockets.

Mapping child poverty, not something the Tories or their LibDem allies will welcome.

In other news, a UN official wonders about food banks in Britain. I am just waiting for some idiot Tory to trumpet them, saying “…at least we are world leaders in food banks!”

The privatisation of education continues a pace as Gove brings in help to sack people.

Polly Toynbee on the bedroom tax and housing.

Not above shelf stacking.

Finally, NHS privatisation: Compilation of financial and vested interests, well worth a read. I can’t even imagine how scathing George Orwell would have been, of a society which attacks the poorest and weakest whilst selling off the family silver, and for once a Tory was right about something.

Chagossians, An innumerate Iain Duncan Smith And More

I had hoped to start 2013 on a better footing, with longer, more thoughtful post but time and life are not so generous. I think the plight of the Chagossians deserves a wider audience:

“For the uninitiated, in the 1960s, the US wanted Diego Garcia (one of the Chagos Islands) as a major air base. It spoke nicely to the UK, its owners, who consequently evicted and banned all the inhabitants from it and the neighbouring islands. The constitutional arrangements were apparently decorous. A new UK colony was established (the British Indian Ocean Territory or BIOT) with a Commissioner to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Territory. “

Iain Duncan Smith is a loathsome politician, but he’s also innumerate as Channel 4’s Factcheck shows:

The claim

“Tax credit payments rose by some 58 per cent ahead of the 2005 general election, and in the two years prior to the 2010 election, spending increased by about 20 per cent.”

The verdict

We asked the Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which administers work and child tax credits, how much has been paid out since the current system started under Labour in 2003 (before that it was the Working Families Tax Credit).

It said that in 2003-04, £16.4bn was paid, and the following year – the one that included the general election to which Mr Duncan Smith refers – £17.7bn.

That’s an increase of 8 per cent, not 58. “

The German army still has a problem with neo-Nazis as Zeit On-line points out, original in German or the Google translation.

In the US, White Supremacists are planning an anti-immigration rally according to the ADL.

The Guardian looks at the companies set to benefit from the privatisation of the NHS.

The Automatic Cat’s commentary is to the point:

“That doesn’t matter, anyway. The purpose of his statement was to demonise a section of the public in order to justify cuts which themselves are aimed at proving to ‘The Markets’ how fiscally astute and fearless we are. ‘The Markets’ being, in large part, the global banking system which brought us to the edge of catastrophe in the first place.

We’ve seen this kind of demonisation before, with the unemployed and the long-term ill. The suggestion that they’re really putting it on somehow, or shirking, or somehow otherwise undeserving of any help at all. It goes hand in hand with the policy that the safety net has made us all soft and needy and that taking it away will get us off our lazy behinds and make us take all those jobs which are out there.

It really won’t do. Personally I’m rather insulted that the government thinks so little of us that it believes we’ll swallow this nonsense. It shows a rather interesting lack of sophistication and, indeed, compassion. A government which believes we can be so easily manipulated is really not a government worth having. “

Reuters reminds us of the ever increasing death toll in Syria: 60,000 at the last estimate.

Will 2013 be better than 2012? Not looking good thus far.

The BBC And The NHS

I think Martin Shovel doesn’t get the recognition that his wit and drawing skills deserve.

In this case he details with the BBC’s attitude to the NHS:

Those readers unfamiliar with the issues would do well to read Oliver Huitson’s and openDemocracy contribution:

“The BBC’s coverage of the NHS bill represents a profound failure to inform the public on an issue of the utmost importance. To summarise, it appears that:

– the BBC never questioned or explored the lack of democratic mandate for the changes to the NHS

– they consistently presented the bill using the government’s own highly contested description

– expert critics were not given the space and opportunity to highlight the true nature of their objections

– financial links between healthcare firms, the Conservatives and the House of Lords were never reported

– the significant role of the private sector in Lansley’s new health market was never explored

– fears over privatisation were occasionally stated but never explored or explained

– the role of private firms in commissioning care was not properly explained, if at all

– the role of private firms in creating the bill was never examined or reported

– sources with significant links to private healthcare were presented without a disclosure of their interests

– the BBC censored key stories, particularly as the bill reached its final stages. On 19 March 2012 when the bill was finally passed in the Lords, BBC Online published not a single article of news or analysis on the bill. “

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