Week 4: Hero – Caroline Lucas

by George_East on January 26, 2014

This Week’s Hero of the Week Award goes to the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas for her private member’s Public Service Users BillGreen_Hero

One of the most depressing wrong turns in politics over the last 30 years has been the obsession with privatisation – the notion that hiving off the provision of public services to the private sector some how automatically improves the quality of those services.  As has been shown time and time again – the utility companies, the railways and in more recent years prisons, education and health, this is not only wrong but in reality about an ideological obsession with shrinking the state.

Sadly the Labour Party in the Blair years bought into this bogus policy assumption almost wholesale.   One of its first measures was the privatisation of air traffic control services and it was the latter Blair administrations, with their focus on ‘choice’ in public services, that introduced academies into our education system and private providers into the NHS.    It has enabled the Coalition to claim that in opening up the health service to wholesale privatisation with the Health and Social Care Act and its Free School programme (or give state schools to Toby Young for free progamme as it should be known) is simply finishing off what Blair started.     Indeed one of the biggest weasel phrases that there is in politics, is ‘public sector reform’, which inevitably means transferring the public service into the private sector.

Even with Ed Miliband’s expressed desire to move on from the Blair years, there is little sense that the Labour Party is yet prepared to once again make the case for public provision of public services.

It has instead fallen on the UK’s sole Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas to lead the way.  She has previously won our Hero of the Week Award for her campaign for renationalisation of the railways.  This week saw her introduce a private members bill entitled the Public Service Users Bill.  The bill, if passed, would make public provision of public services the default position.  It would introduce a level playing field by making private providers of public services subject to freedom of information requests, and subject to recall of their contracts if they perform shoddily.   It would also require all private providers of public services to provide transparent performance and financial data.

There is of course no chance of this becoming law.  It is also only modest in its ambitions.  But it shows how far the ideology of privatisation has overtaken our political life, that the Bill seems radical and refreshing.   Opinion polls show time and time again that the vast majority of the public are against privatisation and want public services kept away from the private sector.    If only the Eds would take up this case they may even find there are a fair few votes in it.

In the meantime Caroline Lucas deserves praise for ensuring that there is at least one political voice out there making this case.   She is our Hero of the Week.

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