More Creeping Privatisation – Chris Grayling Turns on Network Rail

Having observed Grayling in action in the Ministry of Justice we should be forewarned of what is likely to happen now that he is the Secretary of State for Transport. What does the record show? What are the values and standards that Chris Grayling upholds?

When Chris Grayling was the Justice Minister he set up Just Solutions Inc, a ‘for profit’ branch of the Ministry that supplied support and expertise to foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Just Solutions Inc assisted governments, for profit, in the running of penal systems involving imprisonment without trial, torture, stoning, decapitation and crucifixion. Surely profiting, making money, from such things goes against everything this nation claims to stand for. Did the public ever vote for this kind of thing? Does this behaviour not conflict with our national security concerns, let alone with our so-called western, liberal, Judeo-Christian values? Have we completely lost sight of the bigger picture?

The new Justice Minister, Michael Gove, shut down Just Solutions Inc within months of replacing Chris Grayling in 2015. The system was deemed to be so morally abhorrent that even the new, hard right, Tory Minister found it to be indefensible.   I wonder how many people have even heard of this debacle of state-orchestrated profiteering. Is this what neoliberal dogma in this nation has brought us to?

As for the British penal system, Chris Grayling’s reforms have left the nation with an abject mess to clean up. We have all noticed lately the increasing number of distressing events taken place inside prison walls: rioting, fires, and widespread drug dealing and physical assaults involving both prison staff and inmates.

In the increasingly privatised prison service we see horrendous overcrowding alongside extreme staff shortages, and rising rates of suicide and self harm. The service manages to be both costly and inhumane at the same time. We now have, in Britain, one of the highest  prisoner re-offending rates in Europe, the highest percentage of the population incarcerated, and the longest lock up times. The prison service is little short of a national disgrace.

The reforms are not saving any money and not contributing in any way to the repayment of any part of the national debt. All that has been achieved is that a small group of capitalists and managers have been given the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the general public. Costs have gone up not down.

The system is utterly inefficient at achieving what it sets out to achieve. Why is this man, Chris Grayling, in charge of anything at all? His track record is utterly appalling.Privatisation of the rail services has meant in some cases that foreign governments have bought up our services, and have used the profits leached out of our system to subsidise their own nationalised rail systems. Unbelievable!

Grayling says that his current reforms have  nothing to do with privatisation, but we can be fairly sure that is not true. The Oxford English Dictionary word of the year for 2016 is ‘post-truth‘. We understand that we are living in a ‘post-truth’ era. By that we mean that we know full well that when things are said they are unlikely to be true. Truth is not important when the objective is to steal  headlines, to grab the public’s attention, to plant ideas into the national psyche. Lies and goofs and gaffes do that as well or better than truths. Everyone knows that these days. It is naive to think otherwise.

What Grayling plans to do is to shrink the size of the publicly owned part of the rail service and subsume it into the already privatised part. This sounds to me like a precursor to compete privatisation of rail services. Once privatisation is complete we can expect prices to rise and wages to be squeezed. Investment in less profitable parts of the national rail service will decline, leaving some areas without a good service.

As a monopoly the train company can be expected to make ‘supernormal’ profits for its owners. If the company is owned by foreign individuals or governments these profits will go overseas. Once privatised the customers using this service can be held to ransom and businesses as well as individuals will suffer. Our government is using the utterly, failed dogma of ‘austerity’ to dupe the nation into more and more selling off of public assets to the highest bidder. Surely this is yet another case of creeping privatisation, one more that the government vehemently denies. The effects have been disastrous rather than beneficial to all but a very small minority. When is the public going to wake up to what is going on?

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