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Ed Miliband must speak out against Cameron’s public sector proposals

It is quite right that the News of the World phone hacking scandal is dominating the headlines — this is a watershed moment both in the media and in politics. However, there are other stories around and the government, under fire though it is, is having something of an easy ride over disastrous economic growth figures and, yesterday, David Cameron’s proposals to absolutely gut the public sector once and for all. This has to end and Ed Miliband should speak out especially on the latter issue which shows how demented this government’s ideological determination is to destroy the last vestiges of socialised services which so many of us depend upon, especially, but not exclusively, our most poor and vulnerable.

As is now traditional, the marketisation of the public sector is dressed-up in language borrowed from the left, and speaks of freedom, all in the name of asset stripping. Proposals which include fancy personal budgets so you can buy your own required service from the many competing providers sounds nice and ‘free’ and maybe even cheaper until you stumble upon the hidden costs:

Confidential documents obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that ministers have been privately advised to allow schools and hospitals to fail if the government is to succeed in its overhaul of public services.

They reveal research by civil servants warning that markets are susceptible to failure, and that costs could in fact rise unless a true market is created by allowing public services to collapse if they are unsuccessful.

In other words, for these proposals to save money, which is their ultimate goal, we are going to be faced with the disgusting spectacle of our government standing idly by while schools and hospitals simply go to the wall. Not really improving the choice on offer, now is it?  However, this is a tricky one for the left which often does get caught in the ‘public good – private bad’ discourse too easily. Issues do exist around the way the public sector provides services; issues of democratic control and accountability as well as the chronic lack of funding but, the solution which is put forward by Cameron & Co is the wrong one because it resolves this by looking to an equally undemocratic and unaccountable force in the market. A force, which does not guarantee a level of care and provision which the principle of public services does. This latter point is the one key advantage of public services over private provision.

It’s quite right therefore to defend our services against market encroachment but we must also offer our own vision of democratic reform of public services. One that empowers people and sees the governments role not as a controlling one but a supporting one, one that is there simply to enable these democratically run services to flourish and be run properly in a way which guarantees provision for all, but not to stifle them with bureaucracy. Ed Miliband has spoken out on News International — now is the time for him to prove not just to be a one-trick pony and to speak out against Cameron’s decimation of our public sector and for the retention of the principle of provision for all not just those who live in the right area and have the right amount in their wallet.

2 Comments

  1. Ben Singleton says:

    ‘Equally undemocratic and unaccountable’

    Really? Can’t remember the last time I elected the people who ran asset stripping companies. I can hold politicians to account through the ballot box if they run public services badly. If Cameron get his way, we won’t have ANY accountability in our public services whatsoever, in the same way how we are left helpless against the companies that took over the old state-run energy industry, the railways, etc who hike up prices year on year despite the ludicrous profits.

  2. @Ben

    But you don’t elect people who run your public services either do you, really and truly, how many executives and civil servants that run them do you elect precisely? Politicians don’t run them at all; they provide the broad policy framework through which they are operated but the notion they ‘run’ them is fantastical.

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