The Walrus

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.

Up the Barbara

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Add up housing costs and average wages and £30k looks modest.

It seems to have come as quite a shock to lots of different people that train drivers on the London Underground already get paid £30,000 a year. Strike a light, guv, they must all be 'anging aht in penthouse suites up the old Barbara*, an' no mistake! Up to a few years ago, anybody getting this kind of money--even in London--would be doing pretty well. But it's by no means a spectacular whack in 2002.

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.

Ken and Barry Go Off

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Who will miss the trade unions' lousiest right wing double act?

So, off you go then Ken and Barry, quite possibly the lousiest double act ever to have trodden the boards. Mercifully yanked off stage by the great umbrella handle of history. All that's left is to look forward to your villas in Marbella, your bolthole of choice. The rather flustered-looking stage manager, Mr Blair, will no doubt be hoping that the rest of us put the miserable duo to the back of our minds ASAP.

Blair's Paranoid Androids

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New Labour stooges appear to be incapable of winning a trade union election.

Something of a pattern appears to have been emerging in recent elections for the top positions in key unions. For an organisation which feigns indifference to anything which might be going on in such supposedly obsolescent realms, New Labour has developed a fixation with the outcome of these votes bordering on the paranoid. In the process, it has resorted to a degree of trickery worthy of old Uncle Joe.

Jackson's Hole

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New Labour's favourite union leader is facing problems in the forthcoming election.

A remarkable transformation appears to have overtaken Sir Ken Jackson in recent weeks--morphing from his customary incarnation as great lummox into the D'Artagnan of the TUC. Presumably this is not entirely unrelated to the fact that Sir Ken finds himself up for election again, an experience he had not entirely bargained for and one which he has not undergone since 1995.

Tired of Weighting

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The rising cost of living and shortages of labour means London's workers now have more industrial power.

On the face of it the issue of London weighting payments is not all that thrilling. Nevertheless, it has helped add a bit more spice to the recent upsurge of rank and file militancy which has managed to send the mainstream press into such a lather.

Going Nowhere Fast

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The rail unions have built up some powerful muscle they can flex.

When Stephen Byers was spotted in a Westminster canteen just before Xmas, deep in talks with Mick Rix of Aslef, eyebrows were raised all round. We were all under the impression that trade unions had been virtually airbrushed out of the frame. Now here was one apparently on the best of terms with the transport secretary. One interpretation might be that, with the railways in particular, the government has dug itself into such a hole that it needs every bit of help it can get to winch itself out again.

Heralds of Free Enterprise

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The collapse of Enron has shone the torch into a cellar full of crimes.

Luckily for Bush and Blair, the relentless drone of the B-52s has helped mask the thunderous clatter of the biggest bankruptcy in corporate history. Not only was the Enron corporation the world's biggest energy trader, but it had also emerged over the past decade as the archetypal global corporation, dominating the world's energy markets through online manipulation of supply fluctuations, and constantly changing prices for gas and electricity.

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