New Labour’s initiativitis crisis

Some examples of the ongoing crisis in the Labour party:

* The pay-as-you-throw bin tax – which was one of the issues that has been raised by voters in the local elections -has been scrapped and then unscrapped over the course of one day. The latest position is that the rubbish charges will not be rolled out across England until the results of pilot initiatives have been assessed…

* State television has aired footage of immigration raids filmed last month as evidence of a crackdown on employers breaking the law, but the workers were the ones in chains…

* “Defence” Secretary Des Browne has paid a visit to a rehabilitation centre for injured service-personnel – and announced an extra £24m to improve its facilities…

* The 10p tax rebels have been “assured” ahead of the Crewe & Nantwitch by-election which the Tories are attempting to portray has a referendum on the issue, but as yet there’s no detail on how the 5.3 million people who have had their income tax doubled are to be compensated. The Tories intend to use the by-election…

* Charles Clarke has called on Brown to stop using “dog-whistle” slogans, end post office closures, drop plans for 42 day internment (even though he supports it!), and hold a mini-budget to solve the 10p tax issue…

* Bosses have put the government on notice over tax changes, threatening to pull out of the UK – and this, before the disastrous local elections…

With all this in mind, the Morning Star asks, Are you listening?

GORDON Brown’s claim to be a listening and learning leader will be put under daily scrutiny for as long as he occupies 10 Downing Street.

And no time like the present, as he is faced with three hard-hitting reports that savage the Prime Minister’s obsession with allowing the private sector to leech on public services.

The lesson to draw is that encouraging the private sector in the railways, the postal services and the NHS is a recipe for disaster.

Opinion poll after opinion poll has confirmed public hostility to this parasitic practice, but Mr Brown has lost no opportunity to nail his colours to privatisation’s rickety mast over the past 11 years of Labour government.

He was the architect of the public-private partnership on the London Underground, which then deputy prime minister John Prescott insisted must be in place, with contracts signed, before London mayor Ken Livingstone could assume his transport responsibilities.

That particular scheme has not only milked the public purse of billions of pounds but has also ended in failure, with the bankruptcy of the Metronet consortium.

But, far from learning its lesson, the Brown government is insisting on a similar structure to oversee the public investment of £600 million in the necessary upgrade of the successfully run, publicly owned Tyne & Wear Metro system.

Mr Brown should listen to the complaints that his original scheme threw up and to the helpful advice of rail unions RMT and ASLEF and then acknowledge the necessity of keeping all Tyne & Wear Metro maintenance in-house.

While he is allowing that information to sink in, the PM should pay attention to the independent review of the postal services that was commissioned by the government itself.

To the shock of Mr Brown himself and free-market zealot Business Secretary John Hutton, the review confirms the assessment that most people in Britain had already made, advocated and seen ignored by the government.

This assessment is that postal services liberalisation, which was decreed in EU directive 97/67/EC in 1997, followed up by directive 2002/39/EC in 2002, has been a godsend for big business but has threatened the services that ordinary people have relied upon for generations.

The government must listen to the statements that there has been “no significant benefit” for consumers and small businesses, that there is a “substantial threat” to the universal postal service and that “the status quo is not tenable.”

There will be no prizes for guessing what advice Mr Hutton will proffer. His outlook is based on the uncanny logic that, if private-sector penetration has messed things up, the only way to fix them is further private-sector penetration.

If Mr Brown listens to postal workers and consumers, he will draw the opposite conclusion.

And he should do the same with the NHS, the jewel in the crown of the post-war Labour government, which still has a special place in the heart of Labour voters or erstwhile voters.

Health Emergency’s advice to replace NHS private finance initiatives with direct public procurement, to scrap plans to hand over GP services to US transnationals, to suspend A&E closures and to end the target culture should be heeded.

Well, Mr Brown, are you listening?


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