The present day Conservative Party is like Oliver Hardy. Creating mess after mess, Ollie looks for a scapegoat to blame for his problems, most notably of course his friend and companion, Stan Laurel – another fine mess you’ve got us into! So today’s Tories scapegoat the Labour Party, always the trade unions – and now Europe! But Today, wherever you look, many of our most serious problems are attributable to past and present Conservative government policies. Yet in spite of the problems that their policies have created, Conservative politicians are now brazenly conning the British electorate that if we allow them to continue with the same old failed policies things will get better.
Take energy: it was Mrs. Thatcher who transferred our state energy companies into private ownership, so handing over an important segment of our national sovereignty to the “market”. We are all now only too familiar with the consequent chronic problems: a cartel of 6 major suppliers – 5 of them foreign owned, even in one instance by the national state company of another neighbouring European state! Extensive over-pricing for millions. A bewildering and highly confusing plethora of “tarifs”. And of course profits that no longer accrue to the British Treasury and lighten the nation’s tax burden, but profits that are paid out to shareholders, many of them foreigners. And Conservative politicians have the gall to expect us to marvel at the results of their policies.
Ah, you might say, but the Tories have achieved great things for our railways! Haven’t they just! Amongst the highest fares in Europe; a fragmented system and the absence of an integrated national rail network as in France or Germany; unacceptable standards of service by some of the private company franchise holders. And all the while Virgin rail boss, Sir Richard Branson, is sun-bathing on his Caribbean island minimising his U.K. tax liabilities from his off-shore tax haven. Well done the Tories!
But what about their education policies? Yes, you may well ask that question! They’ve introduced Academy chains that compete to control schools on a totally arbitrary basis; so we have individual academies and so-called free schools built in the wrong places and wastefully under-suscribed. A recent report by the House of Commons Public Accounts committee found that £42 million of public money had been wasted on these schools; and it would appear that any billionaire crank can establish a free school or run a chain of academies with generous state subsidies and without any proper accountability built in. Thus as a result of recent Tory education policies we no longer have a coherent national system of education run uniformly throughout the nation and accountable through elected councils to their local communities. But meanwhile amongst that diminishing group of publicly accountable LEA schools many are struggling financially, with subjects being dropped and qualified teachers made redundant, and this after students have already completed 3 years study of a subject – talk about a “national curriculum”! And now some schools are contemplating a four-day week. Our Prime Minister’s solution to all this fragmented chaos? Bring back grammar schools’ and reintroduce a thoroughly discredited system of selection from the distant past. As they’d say in Dad’s Army, “who are you kidding, Mrs. May”!
Oops we almost forgot the Conservatives’ housing crisis! We are daily reminded of the dimensions of this crisis: shortages, overcrowding, homelessness, “generation rent” who endure exorbitant rents (rent deregulation was introduced in the Tories’ 1988 Housing Act); appalling living conditions for many of the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens – yes indeed Rachman of the 1960s is back with a vengeance! What of course is kept from us is that the root causes of today’s crisis lie in Conservative government housing policies implemented since 1979; it’s a wholly self-made crisis, wholly avoidable and unnecessary. It may surprise readers of this memorandum to know that in the late 1970s an approximate balance between the supply of homes and the need for homes had been achieved for the first time since the end of WW2. The Labour Government under James Callaghan published a wide ranging “Green Paper”(1978) that surveyed the progress that had been achieved since 1945. It reported that as a result of the extensive building programmes of both Conservative and Labour governments the acute housing needs of the period had been largely met by the public authorities building affordable housing and by private developers building for owner occupation. However this report surveyed the nation’s continuing housing problems and after carefully examining all the then known data (three volumes of evidence were published with this report) came to a cautious conclusion as to what our future housing needs would be in the light of all this demographic and other evidence. The 1979 incoming Thatcher Government, however, rubbished these plans and preferred to put its trust in “the market” to provide for the nation’s future housing needs! An extensive programme of selling off council houses with large discounts (up to 60%) was implemented by the 1980 Housing Act. There was strong opposition at the time to this sale of our national housing assets. Directors of housing travelled from the remoter régions of the country to warn ministers at Westminster of the likely problems for rural communities if the stock of affordable homes were sold off and villages became populated by second home owners. The Bishops of the Church of England also strongly advised against this policy on the grounds that only the then present génération would benefit from this transfer of heavily discounted public property assets, while the generations yet to come would for ever be denied access to good quality affordable housing. The great failure during these decades was not to replace this stock of affordable homes. Indeed the second (1983-87) and third (1987-90) Thatcher administrations, actually prevented local housing authorities from reinvesting the accumulating assets from council house sales in building replacement affordable homes, and with the 1988 Housing Act they compounded the difficulties of many less well off households by deregulating rents in the private rented sector. Thus by the end of John Major’s period in office (1997) the ground was well prepared for a future massive housing crisis. The private market since 1979, in spite of Conservative faith in the market, has just not been up to meeting the housing needs as foreseen in 1978, so private house construction has consistently been below 160,000 units per year compared to the 200,000 estimated in 1978 to be required annually; and every year that has passed that housing deficit has grown – the Conservatives’ free market experiment in housing has failed disastrously for so many, and especially now for the young!
And so we come to Brexit the Tory Way! They now want to take us out of Europe the hard way – the most damaging act of national self-harm since Munich in 1938! The first thing that should alarm British voters is the lack of knowledge amongst those ministers responsible for negotiating us out of the EU. A number of commentators have noted this. Ian Dunt, for example, in his book “Brexit – what the hell do we do now?”, suggests that our ministers are (were) not aware that no alternative trade deals under EU regulations are permitted until the UK has actually concluded its exit from the EU. So we have the spectacle of brexiteer Minister, Liam Fox, travelling to the Phillipines to promote trade with a country with whom we currently conduct 0.1% of our trade while turning his back on that trading block on our doorstep with whom we conduct 45% of our trade. One could be forgiven for assuming that the inmates are running the asylum! Dunt also points out how dependent the British economy is on Immigrant EU labour: agriculture and meat production; according to him 95% of abbatoir vets are from other EU countries, as also are 15% of health service staff and some 30% of our catering and hotel workers. What May and the Tory right wing appear to have ignored so far in their dealings with our EU partners is that the xenophobia, ethnic hostility even racism that their brexiteer policies have given rise to are beginning to damage this country’s appeal and its ability to attract qualified persons from Europe. Already, for instance, the recruitment of medically qualified immigrant recruits has dried to a trickle; and our universities are beginning to lose academic staff, while student recruitment from overseas is also falling. The post June 2016 devaluation of sterling (15%) is due to the brexit vote to leave the EU, and now the conséquent inflation is already beginning to lower many people’s standard of living. In fact the past decade is the first since the Napoleonic wars that has seen incomes fall behind prices. In other words except for a rich elite we are all getting poorer and under Theresa May with brexit and continuing austerity this decline in living standards looks all set to continue.
To return to our Oliver Hardy Conservative Party: their policies of privatisation since 1979 have abandoned whole swathes of our economic sovereignty to the arbitrary workings of “the market”, the loss of which – like UKIP – they’re attributing to our membership of the EU. Their policies have created crisis after crisis, foremost in housing, but also in education, with our prisons, in energy supplies, with our NHS, and the rest. Young people especially have been harshly affected by Tory policies and all their policy failures. Many of the young are now saddled with large debts which in many cases will never be paid off – and all the while the private finance houses that have bought such debts (another Tory privatisation) are charging 6% interest to their debtors, while the banks pay 0.35% on savings accounts. And thanks again to thé Tories most of our affordable housing stock has been disposed of and some of it at least has found its way into the grasping hands of rapacious landlords. Things can only deteriorate if we continue with the same régime and its fallacious destructive ideology. Please vote LABOUR for a halt to further privatisations (the NHS?), and an end to the destructive Tory policies of austerity.
Horsham Labour Party