Posts Tagged ‘Owen Jones’

The TORY impoverishment of Student Nurses.

Yesterday was the last day of parliament in a week where the HoC voted with a clear majority to commit to £205BILLION in spending on a Trident weapons of mass annihilation nuclear weapons system, and the new PM used the day, like the coward she is, to announce that bursaries for the education of new student nurses will be cut from 2017. Meaning nurses will face £50,000+ debt for a degree qualification on top of which they already work a 35hr week on top to achieve. Money for Nuclear Bombs / Massive personal DEBT for student nurses!

Tory Bastards, absolute bastards!

This was just one of many “bad news” stories hidden yesterday – The Guardian article:                                          Bursaries for student nurses will end in 2017, government confirms Anger as Department of Health says replacing bursaries with loans will free up £800m a year to create extra nursing roles      


This was just one of many “bad news” stories hidden yesterday.

Britain’s new prime minister is seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’, and many of us are yearning for that at a time of massive political turmoil. But, argues Owen Jones, we should still think about what kind of politician she is. From opposing the convention of human rights, to telling illegal immigrants to ‘go home’, there are things we should know about our new prime minister…


Mark McGowan, The Artist Taxi Driver: “Not only does Theresa May want student nurses to work unpaid for 37.5hrs a week they also want to charge them £10,000’s just to be able to work!”


May is such an appalling threat to any sort of freedom (except that of fraudsters to evade detection)

This Theresa May government will get away with murder… just like the previous Tory administration did with IDS.

This all happened under David Cameron’s watch.

George Duncan Smith: “I’m improving peoples lives, I’m getting them off benefits and I’m proud of my achievements.”

Below are some of his ‘achievements’;

Larry Newman suffered from a degenerative lung condition, his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone. Atos awarded him zero points, he died just three months after submitting his appeal.

Paul Turner, 52 years old. After suffering a heart attack, he was ordered to find a job in February. In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.

Christopher Charles Harkness, 39. After finding out that the funding for his care home was being withdrawn, this man who suffered with mental health issues, took his own life.

Sandra Louise Moon, 57. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, depression and increasingly worried about losing her incapacity benefit. Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.

Lee Robinson, 39 years old. Took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax were taken away from him.

David Coupe, 57. A Cancer sufferer found fit for work by Atos in 2012. David lost his sight, then his hearing, then his mobility, and then his life.

Michael McNicholas, 34. Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic. Michael committed suicide after being called in for a Work Capability Assessment by Atos.

Victor Cuff, 59 and suffering from severe depression. Victor hanged himself after the DWP stopped his benefits.

Charles Barden, 74. Charles committed suicide by hanging due to fears that the Bedroom Tax would leave him destitute and unable to cope.

Ian Caress, 43. Suffered multiple health issues and deteriorating eyesight. Ian was found fit for work by Atos, he died ten months later having lost so much weight that his family said that he resembled a concentration camp victim.

Iain Hodge, 30. Suffered from the life threatening illness, Hughes Syndrome. Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped, Iain took his own life.

Wayne Grew, 37. Severely depressed due to government cuts and the fear of losing his job, Wayne committed suicide by hanging.

Kevin Bennett, 40. Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness became so depressed after his JSA was stopped that he became a virtual recluse. Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.

David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48. A disabled man who could no longer cope after his parents died, could find no help from the government via benefits. David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.

Denis Jones, 58. A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts, in particular the Bedroom Tax, and unable to survive by himself. Denis was found dead in his flat.

Shaun Pilkington, 58. Unable to cope any more, Shaun shot himself dead after receiving a letter from the DWP informing him that his ESA was being stopped.

Paul ?, 51. Died in a freezing cold flat after his ESA was stopped. Paul appealed the decision and won on the day that he lost his battle to live.

Chris MaGuire, 61. Deeply depressed and incapable of work, Chris was summonsed by Atos for a Work Capability Assessment and deemed fit for work. On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision and ordered them to leave him alone for at least a year, which they did not do. In desperation, Chris took his own life, unable to cope anymore.

Peter Duut, a Dutch national with terminal cancer living in the UK for many years found that he was not entitled to benefits unless he was active in the labour market. Peter died leaving his wife destitute, and unable to pay for his funeral.

Julian Little, 47. Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure, Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax and the loss of his essential dialysis room. He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.

Miss DE, Early 50’s. Suffering from mental illness, this lady committed suicide less than a month after an Atos assessor gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.

Robert Barlow, 47. Suffering from a brain tumour, a heart defect and awaiting a transplant, Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos and his benefits were withdrawn. He died penniless less than two years later.

Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58. As a direct consequence of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP, this man took his own life.

Martin Hadfield, 20 years old. Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country but too proud to claim benefits. Utterly demoralised, Martin took his own life by hanging himself.

David Clapson, 59 years old. A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms, David died all but penniless, starving and alone, his electricity run out.

Jan, a lady of unknown age suffering from Fibromyalgia, driven to the point of mental and physical breakdown by this governments welfare reforms. Jan was found dead in her home after battling the DWP for ESA and DLA.

Trevor Drakard, 50 years old, a shy and reserved, severe epileptic who suffered regular and terrifying fits almost his entire life, hounded to suicide by the DWP who threatened to stop his life-line benefits.”

Stephen Lynam, 53 suffered from anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, a heart condition and musculo-skeletal problems. Found ‘fit for work’ after a WCA. After 22 weeks his mandatory reconsideration was turned down. Facing eviction, not eating properly and getting even more depressed he died shortly after finding out he was allowed to appeal the departments decision.

Malcolm Burge, 66, was left in despair after finding himself more than £800 in debt because of a cut in his housing benefit, drove himself to the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset where he took his own life by setting himself alight in his Skoda Octavia.

Benjamin Del McDonald, 34 took his own life after his benefits were stopped and he was threatened with eviction from his home.

Mark Harper has insisted the Government is right to ignore these achievements.

David Cameron is “proud” of George Duncan Smith’s achievements!

He failed his own fiscal targets and leaves a bitterly divided country in crisis, with the union at risk of splitting, after gambling our future on the EU referendum

The most disastrous premiership since Neville Chamberlain has drawn to a brutally abrupt end. David Cameron is a failure on his own terms, as well as the terms of his opponents. The historical revisionists will one day come and – for the sake of contrarianism – try to salvage Cameron from a wreckage of his own making. Don’t bother.

As he gathers his belongings from No 10, I wonder if he has the occasional flashback to the conference speech in 2005 that secured him victory over the Tory leadership frontrunner, David Davis. It was soaring rhetoric infused with optimism: “And let’s resolve here, at this conference, when we put defeat behind us, failure behind us, to look ourselves in the eye and say: never, ever again.” Perhaps he lingers on the memory of winning a majority last year that the pollsters and bookies declared was near impossible. “There was a brief moment when I thought it was all a dream,” he would later say. “I thought I had died and gone to heaven.” It must seem like a dream now: one from which he would prefer to wake.

Cameron crept into government in 2010 promising to eradicate the deficit in a single parliamentary term. His government didn’t even come close. His government was “paying down Britain’s debts”, he declared in 2013: it actually added more debt than every Labour government put together. Upon assuming office, he committed “to ensuring our whole country shares in rising prosperity”: his government presided over the longest fall in wages and the most protracted economic stagnation for generations. After the last general election, his chancellor introduced three fiscal rules: a welfare cap, a national debt falling as a proportion of GDP, and a budget surplus by 2020. The first two were broken by March; the budget surplus was ignominiously abandoned by George Osborne at the beginning of July.

Osborne himself was less consistent on austerity than his supporters or his critics (like me) have often admitted. But his potential successors now call for his economic strategy to be abandoned, a confession of failure. His business secretary, Sajid Javid, advocates a fiscal stimulus that could mean raising the deficit from 3% to 5% of GDP. All that misery; all that stagnation; all that bloodcurdling rhetoric about the disastrous consequences of Britain not cutting its deficit. All for what?

And take another linchpin of Cameron’s domestic agenda: education. “We’ve got to win the great debate about education in this country, to give choice to parents, freedom to schools, and to fight for high standards,” he declared back in that 2005 speech. A recent league table revealed that local authority schools are, overall, outperforming the government’s flagship academies.

There is an exception: equal marriage for same-sex couples, won on the backs of Labour and Lib Dem votes. What a tragedy that a rare shining achievement is one that some have alleged he regretted.

Cameron hoped that his premiership would preserve the union for generations. But Scotland’s independence referendum result was not only far narrower than anticipated, it left the country polarised and halfway out. While the Scottish National party only had six MPs when David Cameron came to power, he stands down facing a parliamentary bloc of 56 nationalists. With Scotland ejected from the EU against its will, it has never looked more likely to leave and precipitate the breakup of the UK.

What of foreign policy? Little is said about David Cameron’s major foreign military escapade: war in Libya. Rather than ushering in a peaceful, stable, democratic Libya, the country was left consumed in chaos, war and extremism.

And then his means of political suicide: the EU referendum. It was called not with the national interest in mind, but as a method of resolving internal party divisions. It helped secure him a majority, and he gambled everything on it. The man who wanted his party to stop “banging on about Europe” lost, and was left personally repudiated, his country plunged into its worst crisis since the war: economic turmoil, a wave of xenophobia and racism, and a country more bitterly divided than it has been for generations. Those who voted remain resent him for being the instrument of Britain’s exit from the EU; those who voted leave resent him for what they regard as scaremongering.

Cameron leaves Downing Street with few admirers, a country in crisis, the central aims of his premiership in rubble. It is nearly enough to make you pity him – but, given how grave the situation facing our country is, not quite. His premiership is a tragedy for which we will all pay.


After 6 years as UK PM the country still has no idea what Cameron believed in other than a belief that he was the right man to be PM. A belief of a mendacious PR man who viewed the PM job as just another rung on the career ladder.


Reblogged, not my work but agree 100%

If the seemingly irresistible rise of Ukip teaches us anything, it is that sentiment all too often trumps reality and mere detail in politics. The party is a self-described “People’s Army”, now emboldened by a victory in Rochester and Strood it hopes will bring renewed momentum. Its voters are disproportionately working class.

Polls suggest they support renationalising rail and energy and want higher taxes for the rich and an increased minimum wage. According to research by the academic Matthew Goodwin, 81% of Ukip supporters believe “big business takes advantage of ordinary people”; a slim majority want the government to redistribute income; and they overwhelmingly agree “there is one law for the rich and one for the poor”.

These are beliefs soaked in leftwing populism; and yet those who subscribe to them have flocked in droves to a party of the hard right. Ukip’s leaders now defiantly, unapologetically present themselves as a people’s insurgency against a contemptuous establishment.

“The radical tradition, which has stood and spoken for the working class, has found a new home in Ukip,” declared the triumphant Mark Reckless, claiming – with no little chutzpah – to stand in the tradition of the Levellers, Chartists and the suffragettes. Here are movements that defied the powerful and attempted to build a more equitable order. And yet Ukip is led by a privately educated ex-City broker; one of their two privately educated ex-Tory MPs worked in the City, the other in asset management; and they are bankrolled by ex-Tory multimillionaires.

Their policies are erratic, but their leading lights have pledged support for slashing taxes on the rich, privatising public services and repealing basic workers’ rights.

Sentiments, though. Just 36% of voters believe that Nigel Farage was privately educated, even though he was schooled at the prestigious fee-paying Dulwich College; over half believe the same for the state-educated Ed Miliband. Farage has successfully effected an everyman appeal, complete with the almost compulsory pint of bitter at every photographic opportunity. He doesn’t sound scripted, but rather talks in the language of common sense; he presents himself as the outsider against the machine. In a world of relentlessly on-message, professionalised career politicians, it takes little to shine.

You can see why Ukip are an attractive prospect to Tory MPs. The Conservatives are in long-term decline; they haven’t won a general election since 1992; they are unable to win over working class voters in many communities where they once prospered. The baggage of Thatcherism and de-industrialisation drags them down.

Ukip are not associated with this baggage: perversely, given their leaders are really unabashed ultra-Thatcherites. But, again, it’s all about sentiments: Ukip present an entirely fabricated chasm between them and the Tories. In both Clacton and Rochester, voters were frequently reported to be voting for Ukip because the incumbent Tory had done nothing for them.

And sentiments bring us to perhaps the most infamous tweet ever issued by a British politician: Emily Thornberry’s picture of a terraced house adorned with St George’s flags and a white van parked outside.

Over the last generation or so, working class identity, culture and community have faced a relentless battering. Many of the old skilled jobs – back-breaking and male-dominated as they could be –gave people a sense of pride, but were stripped from the economy. Industries that were once the focal point of communities disintegrated. A sense of solidarity, sometimes cemented by a strong trade union movement, was eroded.

In some working class communities, a sense of Englishness filled the vacuum. I grew up near the centre of Stockport: publicly displayed English flags were not uncommon. “I am here, and I am proud,” was the implicit, defiant cry. The rise of Scottish national consciousness has only accelerated the process.

Anything that seems to impugn this sentiment can be seen as the ultimate insult: but if it originates from the political elite, it can be particularly explosive. Politicians are deeply unpopular in modern Britain. They are generally regarded as privileged, self-aggrandising, out-of-touch, and in-it-for-themselves.

In the case of many MPs, some or all of this is unfair. But what is true is that the political elite is deeply unrepresentative of the British people.Parliament is dominated by white middle class professional men; just 4% are manual workers by background; and, in a revealing indication of how professionalised politics has become, while just 21 MPs worked in politics before their election in 1979, it had jumped to 90 by 2010. They don’t look like us, many voters think; they don’t understand us; and secretly, they probably have contempt for us and sneer at us. Any evidence that this sentiment is indeed well founded is as politically explosive as it gets. If there were more prominent MPs from working class backgrounds, the problem would be less acute. But then again, Emily Thornberry was one of the few Labour frontbenchers to grow up on a council estate.

There have been many generalisations in the course of this incident that should surely be challenged, though. A damning subtext of the response to this whole episode is that the working class is a homogenous group, all with the same set of identities and beliefs.

As a general rule – whatever our class – the English do not tend to flaunt the flag apart from, say, sporting occasions. In the US and France the flag is commonplace, but it is associated with those countries’ revolutions and a sentiment of popular sovereignty.

The flags of Britain do not have the same connotations of “the people”. For many non-white people – including working class people on council estates – the St George’s cross is dripping with whiteness in every sense. To a sizeable proportion of the population, flaunting the flag sometimes seems territorial and exclusive, perhaps even intimidating.

And there are double standards at play. British politicians all too often demonise or caricature entire swathes of their own people and get away with it. Senior Tories have characterised unemployed people as “skivers” and “shirkers”; George Osborne spoke of the “closed blinds” of those “sleeping off a life on benefits”. Lord Freud spoke of disabled people who were “not worth” the minimum wage, and remained in post. The Sun is fanning the outrage over Thornberry’s tweet, yet a court was told this week that their reporters referred to their own readers as “plebs”. A Daily Telegraph blogger berates Thornberry, and yet once wrote a piece suggesting that the murder of an Iranian immigrant “has exposed the other side of working class Britain. The intolerance. The suspicion of distinctiveness.” Demonisation is rampant, all too conveniently justifying policies that hammer working class people.

But what lessons for those who resist the Ukipisation of British politics? Easy to feel mortified, depressed, despondent about the direction the country is heading down. But lessons have to be learned. The debate over the future of Britain will not be won by facts and mere details. We now know that sentiments matter. If a populist-minded left would learn these lessons – well, perhaps the rise of Ukip would not seem quite as irresistible as it seems today.

Owen Jones – Who Runs the Country? Shady World of British Establishment – Dangerous Times Festival

The Establishment corruption is relentless


Socialism lives in Britain, but only for the rich: the rules of capitalism are for the rest of us. The ideology of the modern establishment, of course, abhors the state. The state is framed as an obstacle to innovation, a destroyer of initiative, a block that needs to be chipped away to allow free enterprise to flourish. “I think that smaller-scale governments, more freedom for business to exist and to operate – that is the right kind of direction for me,” says Simon Walker, the head of the Institute of Directors. For him, the state should be stripped to a “residual government functioning of maintaining law and order, enforcing contracts”. Mainstream politicians don’t generally talk in such stark terms, but when the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg demands “a liberal alternative to the discredited politics of big government”, the echo is evident.
And yet, when the financial system went into meltdown in 2008, it was not expected to stand on its own two feet, or to pull itself up by its bootstraps. Instead, it was saved by the state, becoming Britain’s most lavished benefit claimant. More than £1tn of public money was poured into the banks following the financial collapse. The emergency package came with few government-imposed conditions and with little calling to account. “The urge to punish all bankers has gone far enough,” declared a piece in the Financial Times just six months after the crisis began. But if there was ever such an “urge” on the part of government, it was never acted on. In 2012, 2,714 British bankers were paid more than €1m – 12 times as many as any other EU country. When the EU unveiled proposals in 2012 to limit bonuses to either one or two years’ salary with the say-so of shareholders, there was fury in the City. Luckily, their friends in high office were there to rescue their bonuses: at the British taxpayers’ expense, the Treasury took to the European Court to challenge the proposals. The entire British government demonstrated, not for the first time, that it was one giant lobbying operation for the City of London. Between 2011 and 2013, bank lending fell in more than 80% of Britain’s 120 postcode areas, helping to stifle economic recovery. Banks may have been enjoyed state aid on an unprecedented scale, but their bad behaviour just got worse – and yet they suffered no retribution.
Contrast this with the fate of the unemployed, including those thrown out of work as a result of the actions of bailed-out bankers. In the austerity programme that followed the financial crisis, state support for those at the bottom of society has been eroded. The support that remains is given withstringent conditions attached. “Benefit sanctions” are temporary suspensions of benefits, often for the most spurious or arbitrary reasons. According to the government’s figures, 860,000 benefit claimants were sanctioned between June 2012 and June 2013, a jump of 360,000 from a year earlier. According to the Trussell Trust, the biggest single provider of food banks, more than half of recipients were dependent on handouts owing to cuts or sanctions to their benefits.
Glyn, a former gas fitter from Manchester, was sanctioned three weeks before Christmas 2013, and received no money. He had missed a signing-on day because he was completing a job search at Seetec, one of the government’s corporate welfare-to-work clients. Then there’s Sandra, a disabled Glaswegian who lives with her daughter. She was sent a form asking to declare whether she lived with someone; assuming it meant a partner, she said no, and was called in to a “compliance interview”. Because her daughter was not in full-time education, Sandra was stripped of her entitlement to her £50 per week severe-disability allowance. While the financial elite could depend on the state to swoop to their rescue, those who suffered because of their greed felt the chill winds of laissez-faire. Socialism for the rich: sink-or-swim capitalism – and food banks – for the poor.
Socialism for the rich manifests itself in a variety of ways. In 2004, corporations were posting record profits, and yet their workers’ wages had begun to stagnate or – in the case of those in the bottom third of the income scale – had started to decline. To ensure that these underpaid workers have an adequate standard of living, they receive tax credits “topping up” their take-home pay – subsidised, of course, by the taxpayer. In 2009–10, for example, the government spent £27.3bn on such tax credits. Between 2003–4 and 2010–11, a whopping £176.64bn was spent on them. Now, millions of working people who would otherwise be languishing in abject poverty depend on these tax credits. But that does not detract from the fact that tax credits are, in effect, a subsidy to bosses for low pay. Employers hire workers without paying them a sum of money that allows them to live adequately, leaving the state to provide for their underpaid workforce.
The same principle applies to the £24bn spent on housing benefit. In 2002, 100,000 private renters in London were forced to claim housing benefit in order to pay the rent; by the end of the New Labour era, rising rents had increased the number to 250,000. On the one hand, this was the symptom of the failure of successive governments to provide affordable council housing. With tenants instead driven into the more expensive private rented sector, housing benefit acts as a subsidy for the higher rents of private landlords. But housing benefit is another subsidy for low wages, too. According to a study by the Building and Social Housing Foundation in 2012, more than nine in every 10 new housing-benefit claims in the first two years of the coalition government went not to the unemployed but to working households. Many of these claimants are workers whose pay is so low that they simply cannot afford the often extortionate rents being charged by private landlords. As well as individual private landlords, companies providing private housing were being subsidised by housing benefit, in some cases receiving more than a million pounds of taxpayers’ money each year, such as Grainger Residential Management and Caridon Property.
One such private landlord is Conservative MP Richard Benyon, one of Britain’s wealthiest parliamentarians whose family is worth around £110m. Despite having condemned spending on social security for “rising inexorably and unaffordably”, and having applauded the government for “reforming Labour’s ‘something for nothing’ welfare culture”, Benyon benefits from £120,000 a year through housing benefit collected from his tenants. Another vigorous supporter of cuts to the welfare state was Tory MP Richard Drax, whose estate received a substantial £13,830 housing benefit in 2013. They are both wealthy benefit claimants who advocate slashing state support for the poor.
Much of Britain’s public sector has now become a funding stream for profiteering companies. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), around half of the £187bn spent by the public sector on goods and services now goes on private contractors. One such company was Atos, first hired in 2005 by the then Labour government to carry out work-capability assessments. Its contract was renewed by the coalition in November 2010, now with far greater responsibilities as the government launched a sweeping programme of so-called “welfare reform”. This five-year contract was worth £500m, or £100m of public money every year. In 2012 the NAO condemned the government contract with Atos for failing to offer value for money. Atos had not “routinely met all the service standards specified in the contract”, the report declared; its record on meeting targets was “poor”; the government had failed to seek “adequate financial redress for underperformance”; and the “management of the contract lacked sufficient rigour”.
Disabled people who needed support were having their support stripped away by Atos. In one three-month period in 2012, 42% of appeals against Atos judgments were successful; but it is a process that is expensive for the taxpayer and often traumatic for the claimant. In the harsh benefit-bashing climate of austerity Britain, disability charities reported that “scrounger” rhetoric had provoked a surge in abuse towards disabled people on the streets. But the behaviour of state-funded private contractors such as Atos must surely raise the question of who the real scroungers are. It was not until April 2014 that Atos was forced to abandon the contract because of the growing backlash, but not until they had pocketed large sums of public money.
This hiving off of core state functions – in this case, assessing support for some of the most vulnerable people in society – to private companies who exchange public money for a poor service is a striking feature of the modern establishment. Another such business is A4e, a welfare-to-work company dogged by controversy over poor performance. As one former A4e contractor suggested to me, A4e was running a “farming exercise”, cherry-picking easy cases and leaving the rest in the “field”. Its former chairman Emma Harrison paid herself £8.6m in dividends, all courtesy of the taxpayer. In February, four former A4e employees admitted committing acts of fraud and forgery after charging the state for working for clients that did not even exist.
In 2012, £4bn of taxpayers’ money was shovelled into the accounts of the biggest private contractors: Serco, G4S, Atos and Capita. It led to a damning assessment from the NAO, which Margaret Hodge, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, summed up: this outsourcing, she concluded, had created “quasi-monopolies”, the “inhibiting of whistleblowers”, the trapping of taxpayers into lengthy contracts, and a “number of contracts that are not subject to proper competition”. G4S had been contracted to provide security personnel for the 2012 Olympics; when it failed to provide them, the state – predictably – had to step in, mobilising 3,500 soldiers and leading even the then minister of defence, Philip Hammond, publicly to question his previously unwavering commitment to private sector provision of state functions. At the end of 2013, the Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into Serco and G4S, after they allegedly overcharged the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds for the electronic tagging of clients, charging for clients who had left the country or were even dead. Many of these private contractors, such as Atos and G4S, pay little or no corporation tax, even as they benefit from state munificence.
Rail Owen Jones ‘Privatisation of rail was a form of socialism for the rich.’ Photograph: Velar Grant/Demotix/Corbis
Privatisation of rail was a form of socialism for the rich that became particularly notorious. According to a report by the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, state spending on the privatised railways was six times higher than it was in the dying days of British Rail. And yet under the privatised system, rolling stock was replaced less frequently, there was not enough carriage space to accommodate rising numbers of rail passengers, and ticket prices were the highest in Europe. As the report put it, technological innovation and improvement were powered or underwritten by the state. The taxpayer shouldered the risk, while profit was privatised: or “heads they win and tails we lose”.
Big business is dependent on the state in a multitude of other ways. An expensive law-and-order system defends its property. The privatisation of Royal Mail ensured that the state kept the pension liabilities – nationalising the debt, privatising the profit. The business elite benefits from around £10bn spent on research and development by the British state each year: and innovations from the internet to the technology behind the iPhone originate from public sector research, as Mariana Mazzucato uncovered in The Entrepreneurial State. Big business relies on extensive spending on infrastructure: in 2012, the Confederation of British Industry suggested savings from cuts to benefits – raids on the pockets of the working and non-working poor – could be used to invest in the road network. And the state educates the workforce of big business at vast expense.
Royal Mail Owen Jones ‘The privatisation of Royal Mail ensured that the state kept the pension liabilities.’ Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images
With big business benefiting from so much state largesse, you might expect gratitude in the form of the glad payment of taxes. After all, this socialism for the rich is not cheap. A common figure bandied around by defenders of Britain’s wealthy elite is that the top 1% of earners pay a third of all income tax, conveniently ignoring the fact that only a quarter of government revenue comes from income tax, with much of the rest coming from national insurance and indirect taxes paid by the population as a whole. But tax avoidance is rampant among much of the corporate and wealthy elite that benefits so much from state handouts. While the law cracks down on the misdemeanours of the poor, it allows, even facilitates, the far more destructive behaviour of the rich. Compare the billions lost through tax avoidance to the £1.2bn lost through benefit fraud, an issue that remains the news fodder of choice for the rightwing press.
The manner in which this happens shows who the state exists to serve. The Big Four accountancy firms – EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) – have been slammed for their role in tax avoidance. But their response is instructive. “We don’t ever condone tax avoidance or support tax avoidance,” pledges EY’s Steve Varley. “Fundamentally, parliament has to legislate what parliament wants to happen … And people like us can follow the legislation and provide advice to our clients.”
But what Varley conveniently fails to mention is that firms such as EY help design the law in the first place, and then go off and help advise their clients on how to get around it. “We have seen what look like cases of poacher, turned gamekeeper, turned poacher again,” declared the Public Accounts Committee in April 2013, “whereby individuals who advise government go back to their firms and advise their clients on how they can use those laws to reduce the amount of tax they pay.” This is an astonishing finding. Senior MPs have concluded that accountants were not simply offering governments their expertise: they were advising governments on tax law, and then telling their clients how to get around the laws they had themselves helped to draw up.
When it comes to rhetoric, the modern establishment passionately rejects statism. The advocates of state interventionism are dismissed as dinosaurs who should hop in a time machine and return to the discredited 1970s. And yet state interventionism is rampant in modern Britain: but it exists to benefit the rich. No other phenomenon sums up more starkly how unjust modern Britain is. Social security for the poor is shredded, stripped away, made ever more conditional. But welfare for large corporations and wealthy individuals is doled out like never before. The question is not just whether such an establishment is unjust: the question is whether it is sustainable.