Blair, Brown Step Up War On The Public Sector

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BLAIR and Brown stepped up the new Labour assault on the public sector yesterday. Brown even had the cheek to blame service sector workers’ pay for the rise of inflation in the capitalist world!

He told a conference of academics and business leaders that ‘The challenge of value for money – in each economy round the world we have moved from an era of public sector surpluses to large deficits and debt, generally far higher than ours in the USA, Japan and France, Germany and the euro area.

‘So an era of more limited fiscal resources – forcing governments to review their public sector responsibilities and to secure the greatest cost effectiveness. . .

‘And you will have seen my determination to address public sector pay. And with this year’s public sector pay settlements averaging just 2.25 per cent – we are maintaining vigilance in the fight against inflation – we recognise that round the world what is driving inflation upwards is service sector labour costs and next year and the year after that we will maintain this discipline of low overall settlements. And I am making it clear in writing to departments that public sector pay settlements must in future be founded on meeting our two per cent inflation target.’

It is not the working class that has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan driving up the cost of oil and other basic commodities by a fantastically inflationary 300 per cent plus, with more to come.

It is the crisis of capitalism that is driving up inflation. Brown blames service sector wages, making the working class the scapegoat for the crisis of the bosses’ system. His solution to the crisis is to starve the working class with below inflation wage rises, and to hand over the health and public sector budgets to big business with his privatisation policies.

Blair started off his day by breakfasting with the bosses of Tesco, Lloyds TSB and Smith Industries, the bosses of 15 Foundation NHS Trusts, plus other top FTSE 100 companies. He invited big business to ‘give their time and expertise’ to improve health services and make millions, if not billions, in profits as their just reward, no doubt.

Blair said it was time to ‘break the notion’ that the public and private sectors operated in separate spheres with ‘contradictory value systems’.

However, first class services, free at the point of need have never been the ethic of Tesco or Lloyds TSB and the rest of the exploiters. Blair is proposing to hand the NHS over to them for the sake of profit.

Blair spoke later on in the day to the same conference as Brown. Speaking to a bigger audience, he changed his message, saying that there was a different ethos in the public sector than there was in business. ‘The purpose of public services is therefore to serve the public; and to do so equitably. So the value system – the ethos – of public services is different from that of business.’ For Blair the truth is elastic. But the conclusion is the same.

He spoke about the glory of the capitalist market. ‘In the business world, adjustment to change comes through the market. You adapt or you go out of business. In the public services, the profit and loss accountability does not exist, at least in anything like the same way.’

He revealed that his policy was part of an attempt by governments to ‘look for alternative ways of replicating that pressure for change.’

Enter the health market – with its purchaser-provider divide, its pricing of every part of the health care commodity, its payment by results and its carrying over of deficits plus 10 per cent – Blair’s attempt to bring the bourgeois market into the NHS to make hospitals ‘adapt or go under’.

It is his health market that is closing thousands of beds, plus wards, operating theatres and entire hospitals because they cannot show a profit.

The Brown message is that there is a financial crisis and that all public sector expenditures must be slashed. Blair seeks to sell the same product by trying to disguise it as a mystical struggle of good against evil, for patients’ choice, where only the fittest provider and possibly patient will survive.

The trade unions must wake up and defend the NHS and the public sector by bringing the Blair government down and going forward to a workers’ government, before workers’ gains are liquidated.