Johnson's Brexit: Thatcher reloaded

Submitted by AWL on 4 December, 2019 - 6:38

On 3 December Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab squirmed when asked why he’d advocated that the NHS should follow the model of Germany, where “two thirds of German hospitals are run privately or not-for-profit”.

It was “a snippet from a pamphlet written a long time ago [it was 2011!], but I can tell you categorically I’ve never advocated privatisation of the NHS.”

He was, he protested, only one of five authors. The other four are all core members of the Johnson team: Trade Secretary Liz Truss, business minister Kwasi Kwarteng, Home Secretary Priti Patel, and junior minister Chris Skidmore.

In 2011 they did not advocate Brexit, but rather the development of a “two-speed” European Union, with Britain in the slower lane.

Like a number of other right-wing ideologues, though, once Brexit was underway, they saw it as an opening to complete the Thatcher counter-revolution begun in 1979 and stalled (though not at all reversed) after 1990.

Reading the 2011 pamphlet tells us better than Boris Johnson’s blustering what a Tory government promises.

Raab and his friends agreed that: “All the economic evidence shows immigration having next to no effect on native wages or living conditions. Immigrants create as many jobs as they take”. But they advocated a “green card” system for the UK similar to the USA’s.

They wanted to “integrate more ‘conditionality’ into Britain’s welfare system”, and “time limits [as] in the US [where] federal unemployment insurance ends after half a year”.

They wanted more anti-union measures than the Tories would bring in the Trade Union Act 2016: “Ballots for strike action in the public sector should specify the relevant legal employer… a particular hospital or university [or school]”, so it would become impossible to ballot across the sector.

They didn’t yet have Johnson’s current idea about making it illegal for strikes to stop all rail services, whatever the ballot results; but they wanted the law to require “majority of support from union members before strike can proceed” — that is, if 70% of members voted for a strike on a 70% turnout in a postal ballot, a strike would still be unlawful, because 70% of 70% is still only 49%.

They wanted to “renew the principle of right to buy”, to expand free schools and allow them to make profits, and to contract out prisons to the private sector.

For them, a “priority should be reducing Corporation Tax” and cutting income tax for the high-paid.

That is the drift of the memos, plans, and drafts tucked away under Johnson’s headline bluster about “getting Brexit done”.

Vote Labour on 12 December!

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