Letters to the Press from Labour Party members
This letter was published as an edited version in the Maldon and Burnham Standard June 2017.
What follows is the full text:
A response to John Whittingdale’s comments at the pre-election hustings.
The economy was the best in Europe he said: In the first quarter of 2017 the UK had the lowest GDP growth rate in the European Union. We have rising levels of household debt and student loan debt in the UK has risen to over £100bn. Consumer spending is being underpinned by private debt that is unsustainable. According to the majority of economists growth will slow significantly in 2017. Low incomes and poverty are already daily realities for many.
The NHS wasn’t being privatised he said: Figures show that outsourcing to the private sector now accounts for £8.7bn a year. That’s public money going into private profits. David Cameron said ‘I want to know how we drive the NHS to be a fantastic business’. Jeremy Hunt has talked about the ageing population as a big commercial opportunity and at a select committee hearing mentioned Kaiser Permanente, an American healthcare organisation as being a model for the future. The Sustainability and Transformation Plans will be the delivery mechanism and will create health economies that are very attractive to private sector health companies. In a debate in the House of Lords in 2015, co-payments, charges and insurance were discussed. The NHS has proposed borrowing up to £10bn from City Hedge Funds (PFI style) to pay for repairs and equipment. It also plans to sell off NHS buildings and land assets to deliver NHS ‘transformation’.
More money for schools he said: Overall cuts of £3bn which for just one local Maldon school will mean a reduction of £336 per pupil or two teachers. There is a teacher recruitment crisis, school infrastructure is decaying, schools cannot afford textbooks or to replace equipment and the arts are being removed from the curriculum.
Fracking is not harmful he said: Apart from the earthquake risk it has a climate footprint twice as much as coal and in the fracking process huge quantities of scarce water and silica sand are used as well as tons of toxic chemicals. The latter could contaminate water supplies and agricultural land.
Labour Party Member
This letter was sent to Manchester University and the Press. (Guardian, Manchester Eve News Daily Telegraph)
It had 43 signatories including 3 economists. July 2017.
I am astonished and angered by your appointment of George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, as an Honorary Professor of Economics. I know many of my friends will share my disgust and disappointment that you have seen fit to legitimise a man who has caused so much pain and suffering across the country.
It is thoroughly insulting to all those who have suffered as a result of his unnecessary and harmful austerity policies. Policies that have led to swingeing cuts to public services including the NHS. Policies which have slashed the welfare state with dire consequences not only for the unemployed but some of the most vulnerable people in our society; the sick, the disabled and those with serious mental health difficulties. Policies that have led to the growth of food banks and increased homelessness in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Policies that have created a culture of blame and encouraged the demonisation of those who have the misfortune to fall into difficulty. George Osborne, who has absolutely no background in economics, told us there was no alternative and that the pain was necessary for the economic health of the country. His economic illiteracy has, instead, brought people and the economy to ruin.
In a letter to the Guardian on the 4th of June 128 economists signed a letter stating that austerity had clearly failed and its continuance would only serve to increase social and economic inequality. This makes the appointment all the more surprising. Is this a damning reflection of the quality of the economics courses on offer at your university? If so, I pity the students who are going to pay huge sums of money to study orthodox economics at Manchester. The pursuit of this now discredited theory has hugely increased levels of poverty and inequality and is continuing to oversee the privatisation of vital public infrastructure and services such as the NHS to the detriment of the well-being of our citizens. And, as Oxfam noted in January this year, out of control pay ratios mean that the average pay of FTSE100 chief executives is 129 times that of the average employee – and equivalent to the earnings of 10,000 people working in garment factories in Bangladesh. Wealth, instead of being shared equitably, is finding its way into ever fewer hands.
It is an insult to the vast body of heterodox economists whose important work has been ignored or bypassed for decades as irrelevant. It is also an insult to your own students who set up the Post-Crash Economics Society and petitioned the University of Manchester to rethink the economics syllabus. This movement for change is now gaining traction across the world and therefore your decision to make this appointment is a retrograde step.
I am certain I will not be alone in thinking that such servile behaviour in a seat of supposed learning is distasteful to say the least. It is an odious appointment that I am sure will have repercussions.