Privatisation

Eat Your Worms

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Public sector reform has problems in store for Blair.

Even though Tony Blair‘s entire demeanour recently smacks of ’nobody likes me‘, it‘s looking as though he might need to eat quite a few more worms before he is eventually put out of his misery. In fact a great writhing bucketful is already waiting in the shape of public sector reform. On the one hand, most members of the general public have no more enthusiasm for further Railtrack-style ’improvements‘ in the NHS, education or the civil service than any of them had for an illegal invasion of Iraq or for university top-up fees.

Blackouts: Not a Very Bright Idea

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Deregulation is the root of the recent spate of power failures.

Who keeps switching the lights off? At the end of September, Italy joined the growing blackout club of Britain, the US, Sweden and Denmark. Since the US led the way on 14 August, all have experienced major electricity blackouts.

And it's not an exclusive club. At the current rate, every country in Europe will soon be a member.

Iraq: Unreconstructed Colonialism

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Six months into the occupation Iraqi society is becoming increasingly fragile. A generation living under war and sanctions has stretched the ties of social solidarity painfully thin.

Those at the bottom of the pile face utter destitution. A World Food Programme (WFP) report released on 23 September estimated the number of Iraqis living below the poverty line had increased since the war to 55 percent of the population, or more than 14 million people.

Thirsty for Profit

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How water turns to gold for the city corporations.

Jollied along by city pundits, a not very convincing raggle-taggle of New Labour goons has recently been finding itself thrust in front of a totally unconvinced public to have another go at privatisation of the water industry in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Like the Tories before them, this government have already had a number of tries at doing this, only to be rebuffed by an impressive combination of dogged resistance from the unions and public outrage. If the early signs are anything to go by, resistance is likely to be every bit as fierce this time round.

Privatising the Privates

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Labour now plans to privatise the military.

While this war is fought for the corporations, the next one will be fought by the corporations. Labour's military privatisation programme means companies will supply and operate key warplanes, warships and army vehicles. The firms will even lure, train and employ soldiers under the Private Finance Initiative (PR). Privatising war is a Labour priority.

The Real Slim Shady

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What have the rail, power and pensions industries got in common? This would be funny if it wasn't such a disaster.

The more Blair fumbles around for anything resembling factual information which might justify laying waste to Iraq, the more he ends up looking like the real Slim Shady. Much the same can be said for our glorious leader's stance on privatisation--sly and deceitful. The yarn that's spun is that everything is going according to plan--the reality is more like it's all going down the pan.

Not Another Bloody Makeover!

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What does modernisation of public services actually mean? More managers or more money?

The more you hear about what New Labour means by 'modernisation' of the public services, the more you realise the astonishing degree to which so much government thinking is still in thrall to a past era--of Thatcherism. This was probably most obvious in the first couple of weeks of the firefighters' strike when it was only too apparent that some of Blair's closest associates could hardly wait to get their knives into the FBU and tag leaders of the union as 'Scargillite' at every opportunity.

Amey, What Can the Matter Be?

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Attacks on the firefighters and PFI go hand in glove in the name of modernisation.

Could there possibly be a connection between New Labour's sudden relish for a showdown with the firefighters and the latest batch of woes to have descended on the government's pet PFI plans? At just about the same time as ministers were pondering the wisdom of squaring up to the FBU, some of the key firms involved in highly valued PFI and PPP projects were owning up to write-downs that set jaws agape on the stockmarket. Both Amey and W S Atkins were forced to postpone the signing of final agreements on London Underground infrastructure renewal projects until the New Year.

Public Money, Private Grief

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Will the last privatisation fiasco please turn off the lights?

For how much longer, one wonders, can New Labour cling to its fixation with privatisation? In the last year alone we have had two really spectacular disasters--with Railtrack steaming off into oblivion and the part-privatisation of National Air Traffic Services taking a nosedive within weeks of taking off. But we have also watched incredulously a whole procession of PFI calamities, of which a Capita-inspired cock-up over the vetting of teachers and a complete balls-up over A-level results are but two examples in the past few weeks.

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