Letter to the Whitstable Times by John Ledger 22/03/17

My Response to Apathy and Resignation

In reply to John Ledger’s letter (Whitstable Times 22/03/17) can I just say that I agree with him entirely?

If we do not change we are going to die as a country.

Which is why I was puzzled by some of his more ill-informed opinions.

Take the Post Office for instance. It is, indeed, dying on its feet. However this is not a natural process. It is entirely down to policy decisions having been made by successive governments.

The Post Office and the Royal Mail were once part of one seamless postal service. You bought your stamps from the Post Office and had your letters delivered by the Royal Mail.

Since then, of course, the Royal Mail has been privatised. But in order to do this, the government had first to deal with its liabilities.

Its pension scheme, which had been deliberately run down by the company in the early part of this century, and the Post Office, which has always made a loss, were taken on by the government, while the profitable part, the Royal Mail, was sold off on the cheap to its backers in the City.

This is known as “privatisation of profit, socialisation of cost” and is the means by which all privatisations are effected.

The same thing is happening to the NHS right now. Prior to the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (which laid the foundations for privatisation) all NHS regions were in surplus. Now all but one of them are in deficit. (See graphic, above).

Mr Ledger is right to say that the NHS will not survive under these conditions. Just like the Royal Mail it is being deliberately run-down in order to hand the cheap-to-administer parts over to the private sector, while the tax payer is left to deal with what remains.

What this will inevitably mean is a two-tier system: a sleek, slick, shiny new part for those who can afford it, and a run-down, over-worked, stressed-out rump for the rest.

The reason why the system was good in its day, as Mr Ledger says, is that the burden of cost was shared by the nation as a whole and not loaded on to the individual. This was the very essence of the post-war consensus which gave us more than 30 years of prosperity, security and increasing living standards.

So yes, Mr Ledger, you are right: we are a much different country now. It’s the post-Thatcher neo-liberal consensus that has ruled the game for the last 40 years, leading to stagnating living standards, greater insecurity and more inequality as a consequence.

None of this was inevitable. All of it is due to deliberate policy choices, and if we don’t change soon, as Mr Ledger says, “we are going to die as a country”.

Christopher Stone.