The news that Royal Mail workers have voted four to one in favour of industrial action against the impact of Con-Dem privatisation plans, throws into sharp relief Labour’s continued refusal to grasp the opportunities handed to it on a plate to scupper the Royal Mail sell-off. All it would take is a public commitment to its re-nationalisation after the next election. But this is of a piece with its failure to support the return to public ownership of the railways, energy and water. This should come as no surprise to socialists.
What’s curious, though, is the logic behind their feeble efforts to appear a bit more radical, without dropping their essential support for a pro-business, neoliberal ideology. This is destined to fail, as no amount of recalibration of a fundamentally flawed regulatory system can address the substance of monopoly power and the loss of vital infrastructure that used to belong to us all.
As Bertolt Brecht famously said, ‘If you fight you might lose, if you don’t you have already lost.’
Ten years ago a liberal US journal, the Washington Monthly, published what it called The Mendacity Index, which rated Reagan, Clinton and the two Bushes for their propensity to tell ‘the most serious fibs, deceptions, and untruths’. No surprises as to who won!
The news that the Con-Dem Government is, just to take a few recent examples, rushing the profoundly authoritarian Lobbying Bill through Parliament, claiming that ‘transparency is the theme’; pressing ahead with the shameful privatisation of the East Coast line on the basis that franchising was a ‘force for good in the story of Britain’s railways’; and continuing to force through the marketisation of the education sector in the guise of ‘putting children’s interests above ideology’ offers pause for thought.
We all know that this rotten Government is the most ideologically right-wing administration seen since the 1930s. But the sheer scale of their deception since they took power is breath-taking. Trade unions, campaigning organisations and progressive political parties already do a good job taking issue with the Government’s divisive policies and dishonest messages. But, as the media is dominated by the right in this country and Labour continue to struggle to articulate a genuine socialist alternative, maybe there’s a case for implementing a running Mendacity Index in the UK. While this has a slightly light-hearted flavour to it, it would surely help efforts to hold the Con-Dems to account; challenge their untruths; and undermine their attempts to manufacture consent for endless austerity, deepening inequality and politics by the rich for the rich.