Tory ideology and the privatisation of Suffolk's libraries
We’ve all heard of The American Dream, the idea that an honest man can make a living off the land and rise to the office of President, regardless of his origins. Though I don’t know if those origins also originally included “being a woman”, but you get the idea. I’d like to talk here about The Conservative Dream and what it is. It’s the idea that you and your rich, well-connected friends, get to own a load of land and businesses, have the peasants pay you rent (unless keeping sheep is more profitable) and also buy all their goods and services from you. It’s an ideology that stretches back for centuries and still persists today.
The Conservative Dream despises any thought that these self-same peasants can have equal opportunities to own land (and thus pay no rent) or run businesses (and thus provide competition) regardless of their origins. It’s rooted in nepotism and classism and it is still being actively pursued today. One thing The Dream also hates is Public Services, the mere hint of any kind of socialism or redistribution of wealth away from rich and well-connected people towards the peasants. This is partly because it increases opportunities; free access to schools and libraries allows people to learn how to read and write, to study economics and history and then potentially start a business or even run for public office.
The other reason Conservatives can’t stand so-called “Big Government” is that it is anti-capitalistic; if the Government is running these services, often free for all comers, regardless of tax or class status, then that’s wasted Profit Opportunity in their eyes. This is hard to understand if you’re a liberal or a socialist but to Conservatives (and let’s not forget their U.S. cousins; Republicans) the very idea that goods or services can be changing hands without profit being involved is terrifying. Like an alcoholic watching someone pour away a half-finished glass, like a chef watching someone burn food or like an oil baron hearing that an entire country is Going Solar. It’s completely abhorrent to their twisted religious worship of Capitalism and in order to repair what they see as a fundamentally flawed system they came up with a plan.
This plan is called Mass Privatisation and to them it’s fool-proof and fits The Conservative Dream perfectly. It’s simple really: Get yourself in Government, then contract out the running of all public services to your rich and well-connected friends (or even yourself). The brilliance of this plan comes with doing it in such a way that the peasants have no choice to hand over their cash, such as: Want something to drink? Give us your money or you get no water! Want to see at night? Want to warm up your house? Want to travel from A to B? Etc. All these were done under the guise of opening up to competition and under the lie that consumers would benefit from lower prices due to competition and that there would be no bungs, price-fixing or anti-compete contract clauses involved anywhere at all. If you want citations for any of this behaviour, just get yourself a subscription to Private Eye magazine. Just make sure you’re sitting down when you read it.
The rail industry still has a long way to go but things are slowly getting there with the Water, Electric and Gas companies, the regulators are starting to get the hang of actually regulating them after only two decades. But that’s two decades of taking the no-choice-but-to-pay-population to the cleaners and now that we have Tories in power again they’re eyeing up Mass Privatisation 2.0: Divestment.
The Tory Divestment plans involve for example “marketising” the NHS. What this means is that private companies run by rich well-connected people get given money by the Government to run the NHS for them. This also has the added benefit that the people in Government can dissolve themselves of any accountability if a hospital closes, if a superbug eats patients or if a doctor goes berserk and kills a load of people. They get to make the odd statement, wash their hands and fine the private company involved a few thousand pounds. (Ask yourself this: how many people have gone to jail for causing the Potter’s Bar crash? How many ministers resigned? Oh, right, yes, a decade later Network Rail – who’s revenue exceeds £5bn – were fined £3m)
And so we turn to Suffolk - also known as The Conservative Dream Pilot County – and its plan to outsource all services so that the County Council just has to have the odd meeting to pick a tender for a contract. This is known as the New Strategic Direction, though it’s not that new, as Nicholas Ridley, Conservative Secretary of State for about four different things under Thatcher once stated that the ideal Council meets once a year over a hearty lunch to hand out contracts. Same Old Strategic Direction, then.
Now the rub: This spring they held a consultation which is designed to seek out “Expressions Of Interest” in running one or more of the Libraries in the county. The model for these are Community Interest Companies, which sound all charity-like, community-focussed and not for profit but are handily designed so that board members can get paid for running them, perfect!
Are any expressions of interest forthcoming? Fifteen at last count. We don't yet know who they are from but there are two groups that this author believes may have put one in: Firstly the “Friends Of Rosehill Library”. Formed by an individual named Jan Rawlings, who incidentally was a Conservative Party candidate for local Borough Council elections in 2008. And secondly “Kesgrave Library Working Party” led by John Klashka who is a currently serving Conservative County Councillor.
Conservatives and their well-connected friends banding together to rule over the peasants? It’s nice to see that - in Suffolk at least - The Conservative Dream is alive and well.