Tuesday, December 14
Blair v BBC&TUC (tagteam)
I do think Mark Thompson made a huge tactical mistake in acquiescing to the government's wish to break up the BBC. I can't see what's happening as anything but a privatisation.
For all its metropolitan and London bias, the BBC is one of the many means, like the civil service unions, and the official Opposition, by which excessive executive power in government is restrained. Though many dislike the fact, London is where things happen politically and in the media. The publicly funded media, the unions, and the government, (meaning the machinery rather than the political power) are hopelssly interwined. They stay when the party in power changes. Civil servants are not just paperpushers: they're embassy staff, gardeners, file clerks, lawyers... the same with BBC staff. Most are not airhead 'celebrity' presenters, but word processors, bookers, sound technicians, carpenters and the like. Many local authorities and voluntary bodies also have their pay and conditions tied to those of the civil service, as do workers in the Justice system and courts.
I said back when I started this blog in 2002 that Blair's long term plan was to take on the public services and privatise them, and the BBC cuts are part of this. The GATT agreement, which we are signatories, obliges the UK to privatise public services; the general principle is that public services, like fire services, hospitals, roads, and so on, should be open to profit-making companies in preference to being provided by a democratically elected authority. There is little protection from freedom of information rules, due to "commercial confidence", and no democratic oversight whatsoever. Thus democracy slips away.
Back to the BBC. The BBC establishment is fighting back pretty hard, in my opinion. The Radio 4 news coverage has been become much more biting and the unexpected critics, like Sir Robin Butler and various judges, are now more vocal: they're filling the space where the official opposition should be. The civil service is is poised to jump into the the fray too. There are huge proposed job cuts at the overstretched Department for Work & Pensions, more temporary short-term work, low pay, and wasteful inefficient IT projects. All of these are sufficient to dissatisfy government workers.
But to think that of all things, after Iraq, after the lies, vanity, deceit and butchery - it's the world's most dull issue,civil service pensions that will do for this government. Blair, out of sheer hubris, is engaged in chopping away at the support he's standing on. Pension reform, as proposed, has the potential to cut pensions not only for lower grade staff but also those at the very top, like Cabinet officials and private secretaries to Ministers and ... Think Sir Humphrey and Bernard, lots and lots of them, and each one with a numerous complement of departmental staff. Who also have staff. Expect more damaging leaks.
When you have the entire BBC apparatus and its unions, plus civil service mandarins and the whole of the civil service unions against you, and you are a Labour Prime Minister, what Blair's doing seems utterly foolhardy. He's hacking away at the fabric of government; admittedly government can always do with a some pruning; but not in this delberate, blind confrontational way. It's a power thing, as it is always is with that little, little man. That it's simultaneously payback for the WMD story makes the BBC cuts all the sweeter for Blair, but why is it he can't see what's looming at his shoulder? The emphasis on the Blunkett saga is just the start of his agony. The Establishment, whether left or right, always has its revenge. Doubly so when you hit them in the pocket.
If it were necessary for the financial health of the country - which I doubt, as the UK is the 4th richest country in the world- to cut expenditure, how about they start here? I'm hoping for a general strike. How about March 19th? Seems somehow appropriate .
11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004