Labour government’s plans to ‘stifle’ union resistance to PFI


The ‘Labour’ government, far from reducing the scope of privatisation introduced by Thatcher, is now busily engaged in expanding the policy even further. Specifically it has committed itself to privatisation of the building of schools and hospitals under a scheme known as the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). These proposals caused outbursts of helpless rage at both the TUC and Scottish TUC last year, but, needless to say, the government intends to press on regardless, confident that it can ‘persuade’ the trade-union bureaucracy to collaborate.

The government has been working behind the scenes in preparing to set up a part-government owned company to be called Partnership UK to advise the City on investing in PFI projects. Mr Adrian Montague, the £160,000 p.a. head of the Treasury’s PFI taskforce, is widely tipped for the post of Chief Executive of this new company.

In his enthusiasm for the project the said Mr Montague wrote a secret memorandum on 31 May 1999, briefing Labour government ministers on what this new company would do. The

Sunday Telegraph

obtained a copy of this secret memorandum and, motivated by its unswerving loyalty to the Conservative Party, sought to use it to embarrass the Labour Party by publishing its contents.

And indeed the document is most revealing about who will benefit from the PFI and how the government proposes to push the scheme through, steamrollering any unions who might be misguided enough to try to protect their members’ jobs and working conditions. This is how the

Sunday Telegraph

of 22 August reported the leaked document:

“The document discloses that the Treasury is plotting to ‘cosy up’ to banks and City institutions that stand to make millions from the policy and have promised to support it.

Six City giants that have pledged support – Barclays, the Prudential, the Halifax, the Abbey National and the European Investment Bank – have been rewarded with places on a Treasury steering group.

By contrast, the memo states that government special advisers should be deployed to ‘manage trade union reaction’ – code for stifling the opposition.”

Since this is just the kind of scheme that the

Sunday Telegraph

’s beloved Tories would themselves be pushing through were they in office, it is hard to see what the

Sunday Telegraph

should find objectionable about it. Logic is obviously not its strong suit.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the

Sunday Telegraph

does not have the monopoly over being blinded with love for a bourgeois political party. This will become embarrassingly apparent when, faced with yet more evidence of the Labour government’s total subservience to the interests of British imperialism, the Communist Party of Britain and the New Communist Party, as well as various Trotskyite outfits, will, despite screaming their denunciations of the Blairites, nevertheless, more or less surreptitiously, be urging everyone to vote Labour, as per usual, come the next elections.

It may well come about that the Labour Party finds itself with nobody much else apart from these sad organisations working for it to be returned to government, for by all accounts Labour Party membership is falling fast. Members are deserting in droves, membership having declined since the General Election from 425,000 to 300,000. It appears that those who have left have tended to be the activists, while those who are left tend to be the ones who never do anything but are members in name only. The precise situation, however, is not known because the membership department of the Labour Party is apparently in chaos and has just been privatised!

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