Socialist Worker

Their interests in new conflict

Issue No. 1754

Inside the system

Their interests in new conflict

NEW LABOUR'S favourite think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, has been advising the government to privatise health and education. Its report recommended "private managers" in the NHS. That then became a key part of Labour's manifesto. The report was paid for by the Serco "institute".

Serco is the private firm which runs some of Britain's prisons and detention centres for refugees. Its record was so bad it failed to win the contract for air traffic control privatisation. The report was backed by:

  • Nomura, a Japanese bank which runs army housing under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal.
  • KPMG, the accountancy firm which has advised the government on 29 hospital PFI deals.

These have been a disaster. The National Audit Office found that at Dartford and Gravesham's new PFI hospital there were no financial savings, but a drastic reduction in beds. KPMG's fees soared from an original �152,000 to a massive �960,000. The commissioner of the report was none other than Martin Taylor, the former chief of Barclays Bank, who Blair appointed as chair of the tax and benefits taskforce.


STREET cleaning services in Hackney, east London, were privatised last year by the Tory/New Labour led council. Now the contractor, Serviceteam, is calling on residents to clean the streets themselves.

The council and the company are calling for a "taskforce" of residents to clean up the borough and to work alongside Serviceteam staff. The staff are expected to join the clean-up as volunteers, without pay.


Direct to the cash point

"GO PRIVATE." That was the advice handed out by the government's telephone helpline, NHS Direct. Pat Straw rang the phone line to get advice about her 80 year old mother, who was suffering from severe back pains.

Pat wanted to know if she should increase the morphine dose for her mother. Instead she was told, "My best advice to your mum is to pay and go private."


Firmly underground

IN A move that looks like it came from a sci-fi novel, some of Britain's top firms are renting offices in deep, nuclear blast proof bunkers. Scottish Widows, BTCellnet, Richer Sounds and other firms have rented 300 foot deep sealed rooms at a former RAF base in Kent for their internet operations.

The bunker is capable of withstanding explosions, and chemical and biological warfare. "There are many reasons why companies are choosing the safety of a nuclear bunker, but I think that the anti-capitalist threat is the most compelling," said a representative of AL Digital, which rents out the bunker. A professor from the London School of Economics, Ian Angell, commented, "You have to understand. Future wars will be fought by capitalists and anti-capitalists as society polarises."


Teen angst

LAST weekend's Financial Times had a 30-page article no teenager could do without. It said, "Should you do the season or give it a miss? That is the question faced every year by teenagers facing what is possibly the greatest summer of their lives." The "season" is a "nine-month whirl of parties, cocktails, dinners, horse and boat race meetings, flower shows and the opera".

There's plenty of advice to make sure you wear the right clothes. For the Glyndebourne opera festival a dress costs just �1,037. A shawl sets it off nicely, for �1,275.


Lessons for an anti-capitalist

ANTI-CAPITALISM is everywhere. Last week those sitting their English GCSE with the Southern Examining Group had to answer three questions. Two of them were about anti-capitalism. One question involved commenting on an article "We Must Act To Shut Down The Sweatshops" by Helen Storey, which condemned Third World sweatshops as "hell on earth".

The article urged, "No more meetings and committees. Action will do." The other question asked, "You have been invited to contribute to a radio discussion called 'Issues for the 21st century'. The topic for your programme is: 'We should refuse to buy goods from countries where workers are exploited'." Hopefully the questions brightened up the day for some of the pupils.


Mast-ers of war?

WILL the CIA be throwing its spying resources behind the various campaigns across Britain against the building of mobile phone masts? It could happen. Researchers have just discovered that the masts can spot the US's Stealth bombers, which cost �1 billion each and are supposed to be undetectable even by sophisticated technology.

So if you're involved in an anti-mast campaign, look out for men in shades with American accents behaving suspiciously!


A 15 year old schoolboy was locked in a police cell for five hours. He was so traumatised that he had to be treated for shock by his doctor.

His crime? He was caught writing on his desk in a maths lesson. His headmaster called the police, and the police arrested the boy and then locked him up.


HOW MUCH do you reckon you would fetch if you sold off your furniture? Viscount Cobham was forced to flog his furniture when his wife Penelope left him for former Tory minister David Mellor. He sold just two tables and six chairs and raised �1 million to settle the divorce case.


Things they say

"THE OLD age pensioners are the worst. These grasshoppers are intent on forcing greater and greater burdens on society to make up for their own lack of foresight in making provision for their own future."

  • MICHAEL KELLY, former Glasgow Lord Provost and still an active member of New Labour

"I SIMPLY could not go through another four years of the sort of destabilisation and backbiting of the last four years."

  • ANN WIDDECOMBE on why she won't serve under Michael Portillo

"A remarkably normal family man."

  • Tory right winger NORMAN TEBBIT on leadership contender Iain Duncan Smith

"NON-VOTING is fuelled by the new generation's commitment to hedonism. It is not greatly affected by who governs."

  • ANTONY BLACK, professor in the "history of political thought"

"WHEN SHE reads out the Ten Commandments it sounds as though she has written them herself."

  • FATHER MICHAEL SEED on Ann Widdecombe

"AT A time when the European Union is trumpeting the need to build new bridges to its citizens, leaders are locked up as surely as the inmates of Big Brother."

  • Times journalist ROGER BOYCE on the Gothenburg protests

"POLICE forces are beginning to realise that we live in near revolutionary times."

  • ROGER BOYCE

"IF summits continue in their present form, perhaps all meetings of leaders will have to be held on Alcatraz or Devil's Island."

  • ROGER BOYCE

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Article information

News
Sat 23 Jun 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1754
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