It was once just about believable that those who advocated shrinking the state were doing so out of a genuine ideological belief that it would benefit all of society, and not just the wealthy. But the failure of trickle-down benefits or a rising tide to lift all boats has made this view unsustainable.
It is also clear that the catastrophic events engulfing the UK – Brexit and Covid – are the result of too little state, not too much. Identity cards and proper border controls on EU migrant workers, allowing them to be removed if unemployed for three months, would have avoided most of the antipathy to the EU. Instead, 5,000 border force staff were cut. The outsourcing of NHS functions, cuts to local authority budgets and the closing of public health labs paved the way for our terrible record on Covid, with public money now being wasted, not saved, through the use of incompetent private-sector partners.
That these obvious signs of the fallacy of the policy have been ignored strongly supports George Monbiot’s view (The Conservatives are shrinking the state – to make room for money and privilege, 14 October) that it is being driven neither by goodwill, nor ideology, nor a desire to save public money, but by ulterior motives: to favour the wealthy, to stifle alternative views, to encourage donations to the party, to gain the promise of directorships, for reasons of cronyism. Corruption, in short. If our democratic processes remain unscathed, which cannot be considered certain, I expect the Conservatives will pay a high price at the next election.
• George Monbiot sets out how the government is carrying out its ideological obsession with privatisation under cover of Covid. But the situation is much more bizarre than he states. A significant number of key industries are indeed being sold off, but to foreign states and not to private shareholders. It is true in the energy and banking fields, but the example of our railways is particularly stark. Many rail franchises are held by companies where either the sole or majority shareholder is a government. Arriva, Chiltern, CrossCountry and Grand Central are owned by the German government, C2C by the Italian government, Govia by the French and Abellio by the Dutch.
It appears that the Conservatives are in favour of nationalisation as long as it isn’t the British government.
• George Monbiot is right about the need to reform our political structures. The next Labour manifesto has to have proposals to create a more inclusive political system so that everyone entitled to vote can do so; a fairer voting system so that people are not disenfranchised by where they live or their social class; and strict limits on donations to political power, to prevent money dominating politics, as it does in the US. Without these changes Labour will never succeed in creating a fairer, happier and more productive Britain.
Prof Roger Brown
• George Monbiot lets them off too lightly. The first objective of the private sector is profit. How can this be compatible with the concept of public service? The primary objective of public service is to benefit the public. Compromising this principle in pursuit of profit is fundamentally wrong. When these profiteers happen to be your friends, that is corruption.
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