The Revolving Door Of Crony Capitalism ... and the Iraq war typifies the virus at the heart of Blairism.
|Smug and arrogant, the crony capitalist writ large|
In Wednesday's Guardian the former Blairite minister Alan Johnson slams Dave Ward, who leads the Communications Workers Union for saying Jeremy Corbyn would provide an antidote to the “virus” of the Blair years. Johnson then gives a list of what he regards as the major achievements of the Blair years. One of the most important of these he rightly claims was taking OAPs out of poverty, thus making being old no longer associated with being poor.
The rest of his list, although worthy were all introduced with major flaws which has enabled the previous coalition government and the current Tory administration to exploit and roll back much of this legislation.
Gary Bell in the article below gives an example of how the coalition and the current Tory government have exploited these fatal flaw. He writes:
Student tuition fees of £1,000 per annum were introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 1998, and the maintenance grant was replaced by a student loan. Fees were then increased to £3,000 a year by Blair in 2004, prompting Ken Livingstone to accuse the then government of “whipping away a ladder of opportunity which they themselves had climbed”.The ladder has now been not just whipped away but burned, thanks to the coalition government’s decision to treble fees to £9,000 a year.
Don't mention the war.
The two biggest disasters of the Blair years, Johnson doesn't go near. He has nothing to say about the invasion and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the unregulated growth of the financial sector in the City of London, which on retirement gifted Blair a £2million a year pension from JP Morgan. These are prime examples of the virus at the heart of the Blair administration which Alan Johnson refuses to see.
Many of the Blairite Ministers on retirement followed their masters lead, having taken up consultancies and lucrative contracts with corporations, some of which are related to their old ministerial briefs, accepting massive salaries in the process.
If the revolving door of crony capitalism, and the Iraq war, which sent our young servicemen and women to kill and be killed on a wicked lie is not regarded as a virus at the heart of Blairism, then I despair of people like Mr Johnson.
The chances I had just aren’t there for today’s deprived young people By Gary Bell, a QC, presenter of The Legalizer on BBC1 and author of Animal QC, published by Monday Books.
We had plenty in common: we both came from Nottingham and had been to local comprehensive schools. Our parents had solid working-class jobs – my mother worked at the John Player cigarette factory in the city and my father was a coal miner – Elliott’s mother works for Royal Mail, while his father is a painter and decorator.
He was a young man with the world apparently at his feet; highly intelligent, with three A grades at A-level, he was eloquent and had oodles of charm. But while the other young people were all eagerly discussing their university plans, he stayed silent.“I’m not going,” he told me. “I’ve got a job selling cars.”
I found this distressing. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with working in sales, but I knew it wouldn’t stretch this bright young man intellectually. And, apart from the personal tragedy, youngsters from Elliott’s background – my background – need all the positive role models they can get.
I asked him why he had turned his back on education. His reply was a damning indictment: he couldn’t justify racking up debts of over £50,000.
I understood where he was coming from. I was born in the back bedroom of my grandmother’s council house, lived in a condemned slum for the first few years of my life, and spent my childhood in an national coal board house in a pit village. When I was his age £50 was like a lottery win, never mind £50,000. The idea of owing anyone serious money would have terrified him.
But I was very lucky. I left school without sitting any examinations and went down the pit, though I didn’t stick at it because I was scared of the dark. There then followed a succession of jobs: apprentice mechanic, pork pie factory production line worker, door-to-door salesman, fireman … you name it, I failed at it, while I pursued my then-hobbies of binge drinking and football hooliganism (I was known by my mates as “Animal”, though for my revolting eating habits not my fighting prowess). Inevitably, I enhanced my CV with a criminal conviction for fraud, and after my father walked out on us, I drifted for a while, aimless and rootless, ending up sleeping rough on the streets and in Salvation Army hostels.
It was only when I turned 21, as my wonderful mother fought the cancer that would kill her at 40, that I realised that education was the key to life.
The Gary Bell of the 1980s had a huge advantage over young Elliott. When I enrolled in a further education college and sat my O- and A-levels, and then went to Bristol University to study law at the age of 25 (in Thatcher’s Britain), there were no tuition fees and – thanks to Harold Macmillan’s Education Act of 1962 – my local education authority gave me a full maintenance grant to cover my living expenses. Without that, there is absolutely no chance I would have gone into higher education. I graduated in 1987 with no debts whatsoever.
Now aged 55, after nearly 30 years at the Bar, I am a QC specialising in criminal defence. I’d like to think that other young people from deprived backgrounds like mine might follow in my footsteps. But they won’t, for one major reason; because education isn’t free any more.
The lion’s share of the blame for that, to its eternal shame, should fall squarely on the shoulders of the Labour party. Student tuition fees of £1,000 per annum were introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 1998, and the maintenance grant was replaced by a student loan. Fees were then increased to £3,000 a year by Blair in 2004, prompting Ken Livingstone to accuse the then government of “whipping away a ladder of opportunity which they themselves had climbed”.
The ladder has now been not just whipped away but burned, thanks to the coalition government’s decision to treble fees to £9,000 a year.
Even with a degree, there still remains a plethora of obstacles for youngsters from deprived backgrounds to overcome to succeed in life, but without one their prospects diminish to nothing.
I’m sure if a young Tony Blair (Fettes college and St John’s College, Oxford), Nick Clegg (Westminster school and Robinson College, Cambridge) and former Tory universities minister David Willetts (King Edward’s school and Christ Church, Oxford) had been on my recent holiday they would have been excitedly talking about going off to university.
As for Elliott? Well, they might have bought a car from him.
First published here