Monday 19 February 2007

Three Questions for a Monday Morning

Three questions for a Monday morning.

First another privatisation too far. Through the "Public Services not Private Profit" campaign we have been pretty well on the ball when it comes to monitoring Government privatisation plans but I have to admit I missed the latest example of the New Labour privatisation obsession. Brown is now selling off HM Coastguard service for £5billion.

This includes the coastal helicopter search and rescue operations sold on a 20 to 30 year contract. The service is directly linked to police, fire and ambulance services as well as the volunteer Royal National Lifeboat Institution. So the question is when will these other elements also be put up for sale?

A service as vital as the Coastguards is in the public sector to ensure democratic control of the standards and security of the service, especially as it is so integrally linked to such other critical emergency services.

So the question is who in their right mind would take risks with such an important, life saving service?

Well, only New Labour with every Cabinet Minister supporting the Brownite privatisation obsession.

Second, Why over the last two weeks have we witnessed the attempt to start a roll of a bandwagon, particularly in the Murdoch press and media empire but also amongst what's left in the Blairite faction of the Guardian?

The bandwagon started with reports of David Miliband mildly distancing hmself from the Chancellor and trying to rehabilitate Ton y Blair. It was followed by his article in Murdoch's Times calling for "Bold not Old Labour" and again containing a covert denigration of Brown along a "yesterday's man" theme. Then we have witnessed a succession of Frank Field but more importantly Guardian Blairistas like Martin Kettle, pleading with Miliband to stand for leader.

It is fairly obvious that Blair's people are flying the kite of Miliband as a potential "anyone but Gordon" candidate but Murdoch's support for Miliband is more interesting. Clearly the old eminence grise is unsure whether Brown or Cameron will win the next election and is keeping his options open with a slight preference for Brown as someone he has done business with for the last decade. There have been no problems or threats to his empire from the Chancellor during this period allowing him to avoid paying a bit of tax every now and again.

However Murdoch is covering his back against all eventualities. So he is promoting Miliband as a safe pair of hands in case Brown stumbles and there are calls for change within the Labour Party. Failing that he looks on Miliband as a long term investment for grooming into office. Having witnessed Miliband and every other current cabinet minister vote for every policy demanded of them by Murdoch it is hardly surprising that he sees this as a sound investment.

Third question, does anyone think the Government's response to the wave of gun deaths in South London of proposing an increase in sentences will have any effect?

I will publish a more detailed policy piece on this issues later but what I can't fathom is why the Government has largely ignored the comprehensive research of experts like Richard Wilkinson, Danny Dorling Rob Reiner and the various specialist bodies such as the Crime and Society Foundation and Smart Justice.

This now overwhelming body of evidence which I find irrefutable demonstrates that the more unequal a society the greater the level of crime, anti social behaviour and social harm.

Wilkinson draws a useful chart in his book "The Impact of Inequality on Health" explaining how greater income inequality lead to greater social distances between income groups, more dominance and subordination with increased status competition and a shift to aggressive anti social values where rivalry centres for some around respect and disrespect.

The response is a programme of redistribution of wealth which in itself also enables the intensive investment in programmes to tackle education failure, provide more constructive activities for young peoples, support families and improve parenting, provide more mental health, drug and alcohol treatment in the community, and extensive rehabiltation support for young offenders both in detention and in the community.

The Thatcher years started this process of community degeneration by allowing the free market to let rip. Ten years of New Labour largely continuing the free market philosophy is ensuring the replication of the US social model. Change is needed but none of the New Labour advocates who have presided over the policies of the last ten years are offering anything different.