Privatisation

Gunning for profits

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On 16 September 17 Iraqi civilians were killed by Blackwater contractors on a convoy escort operation.

This brought the name of this private security company (PSC) into international news. The incident was neither unexpected nor unique, but the ensuing debate certainly was. Even the US-controlled Iraqi government has demanded the termination of Blackwater's contract.

There are currently 861 "contractors" working in Iraq under Blackwater CEO and founder Erik Prince. Each is paid $1,222 per day to protect US diplomats and high ranking military personnel.

Welcome to the Fraud Academy

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As mainstream politicians line up behind business driven schools, author Francis Beckett and teacher Alasdair Smith check the small print and discuss how to stop the schemes.

The frustration of writing a book about city academies is that scandals happen so fast. The whole scheme is so inherently grubby that, in the two months between finishing my book The Great City Academy Fraud and its publication last month, a dozen scandals happened to prove my point.

What Lies Behind the Health Service 'Reforms'

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There is enormous opposition to New Labour's "reforms" of the health service. But there is not usually the same level of understanding of what lies behind them.

That is why conservative politicians can sometimes take the lead in local campaigns.

Health provision is important for the mass of people as an essential precondition for enjoying life. But capitalism looks at it in a very different way.

Capitalist ruling classes can only prosper by exploiting people's capacity to work - what Marx called "labour power". That capacity is damaged by illness, accidents and malnutrition. So bosses have to worry about keeping a fit and able body of workers - again, in Marx's terms, "reproducing labour power".

Education: Choice for the Few

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Jane Coles explodes the myths behind the government's rhetoric about 'diversity' and 'parental choice' in schools.

Back in 1997, when Blair summed up his government's priorities as 'education, education, education', I presume we were meant to take it as a promise, not a threat. However, we need look no further than Blair's own constituency in the north east for confirmation of his intention, where parents in Hurworth-on-Tees are fighting to keep their local comprehensive open.

Pension Revolt: 'New Labour Will Not Win This War'

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The changes that New Labour is proposing to the NHS pension scheme have provoked real anger among health workers.

Undertaking jobs that are physically and emotionally demanding for relatively low pay, they are now being told they will have to work until 65 to receive a full pension. A significant number of nurses and paramedics are already unable to work until 60, retiring on grounds of ill health.

Private Healthcare: Leeches on the NHS

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The government's plans for 'independent treatment centres' (ITCs) - privately run units that carry out routine hip, knee and cataract operations for the NHS - have run into trouble.

Under the plans, NHS trusts pay private companies to carry out these operations, often referred to as 'elective surgery' because patients decide whether or not to go ahead with the treatment. Health secretary John Reid has touted the idea as a way of reducing NHS waiting lists. But the bullying way in which the Department of Health is pushing the policy through has provoked a backlash of criticism from the NHS managers who are expected to implement it. And worse still for the government, the row has exposed the real agenda behind their plans.

Diagnosis: Psychopathic Tendencies

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The Corporation is the latest anti-capitalist blockbuster to hit our screens. Emma Bircham spoke to writer Joel Bakan about the rise of corporate power and his optimism that we can fight it.

You started writing the book and making the film before the big corporate scandals of Enron and WorldCom and even before the Seattle protests in 1999. What made you start this project at that time?

Watch Out, Oughton's About

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The Treasury's money saving schemes hide the real public finance leaks.

It should become clearer this month how much substance there really was in the deal brokered between leaders of the main unions and New Labour apparatchiks at Warwick before the Labour Party and TUC conferences. On Guy Fawkes Day, the vast majority of the country's 350,000 civil servants will take part in a day of action over government plans to slash anything between 80,000 and 130,000 posts from key departments.

NHS: Choose Your Fate

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Prescriptions for more market forces in the NHS are not a healthy development, writes Allyson Pollock.

When the prime minister needed urgent medical care for his heart problems earlier this year he didn't exercise any 'choice', and surely didn't want to. He was simply taken to the nearest hospital, and was happy to let professionals decide what treatment he needed and where he could best get it - in another NHS hospital, as it happened. The incident highlights a basic point about healthcare - unlike a pick and mix sweets counter, healthcare isn't something we always want to make choices about.

Privatisation: More Loot for the Fat Controllers

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New Labour's policy of Public-Private Partnership or Private Finance Initiative (PPP/PFI) is second only to the war on Iraq as a source of anger and disillusion among its traditional supporters.

It means part-privatisation of key areas of the welfare state, falling just short of the outright privatisation epitomised by the railways. A central plank in the neoliberal agenda, PPP/PFI was launched by John Major in 1992 as an alternative to the state-based method of replacing or improving schools, hospitals and rail tracks, and of running services in health, education and transport, through taxation or government borrowing. Now Tony Blair and Michael Howard are haggling over the detail, but not the principle, of PPP/PFI.

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