I slightly overslept today, frustratingly, so much so that I’ve had to delay my early morning run to this evening. Not the end of the world I suppose, as it gave me the opportunity to peruse the papers online before I wondered into work. (And after the extra hour’s sleep was positively invigorated. Full of beans I’ve been today.)
And what delightful array of stories I had to peruse. Owen Jones in the Indy has dealt with the real terms benefit cuts that the government has delightfully voted through after their public opinion softening-up campaign by their friends far better than I could.
I was also interested to read about the wholesale privatization of the probation service that the rather mis-titled ‘justice secretary’ Chris “Mr Charisma” Grayling announced. What a great idea.
A policy that follows the traditional Tory playbook during their 2 and a half years in office.
- Decide that they want to privatize or cut something. Not because it makes sense, but just because they want to as they have a view of how they think society should work. You know, ‘the vision thing’.
- Identify or just invent a problem, always under the general banner of ‘times of austerity’. It could be the fact that the NHS will have to face ‘new challenges’ over the next period. Or that education is ‘going to the dogs’. Or that the nation is ‘drowning in a sea of over-generous welfare payments’. In the case of the probation service, it is the stubbornly high re-offending rates.
- If necessary, a series of media stories appear on the issue-purely coincidentally, obviously. The aforementioned benefits softening up campaign of right-wing hysteria is the most obvious in this regard.
- Make a proposal to deal with the problem: which conveniently consists of the cuts and privatizations that were the objective in the first place. In the case of the probation service, the application of that most ghastly free market euphemism to the service: ‘payment by results’.
- Ignore the chorus of opposition and expert opinion, or dismiss it as the work of the ‘usual suspects’/’Trots’/’Dinosaurs’ etc ,etc. There won’t be much in the way of actual debate and that which there is will be a repetition of a series of superficial clichés. The fact that the policy being suggested is in no way connected to the problem (real or imagined) is neither here nor there. It is a pretext. So for example:
Harry Fletcher, an assistant general secretary at Napo, claimed the decision was astonishing, given that the probation service had been awarded the British Quality Foundation gold award for excellence last year: “This move is purely ideological,” he said. “It is being rushed through without proper thought to the consequences. It will be chaotic and will compromise public protection.”
So the service is working at the moment and has been awarded for doing so but it still must be changed completely and sold off? What is the rationale here to improve the service? (And I know, there isn’t really one…..)
It’s revealing that the most serious offenders will remain the responsibility of the rump public sector section of the service. Clearly the private sector can’t be trusted with those. How odd. Either that or the private sector aren’t interested in something cost- and labour-intensive that they can’t turn a profit on. Again, very curious.
I’m yet to hear a single argument explaining how the mass privatization of the probation service is going to improve re-offending rates. Even Chris Grayling isn’t trying to pretend that it will, to be fair.
But that isn’t the point is it. That isn’t what this is about. It is simple ideological monomania. An idée fixe that the state must be pulled apart regardless of the consequences. The notion consumed the thoughts of Blairites during the Labour years, and is being taken to its logical conclusion by this government.