One hears the term Neo Liberal used, overused and misused. I thought it might be helpful to try and get a simple definition and history and then some thoughts on how we should refute it when we engage with people who unknowingly accept all its tenets.

Classical Economic Theory

Neo (“revived”) Liberalism is an update of the Classical Liberal Economic theory that developed out of the writings (and misapplications) of Adam Smith’s work after his death at the end of the 18 th century.

“Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and the tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” Dugald Steward: Biographical Memoir of Adam Smith (1811)

The other commonly used term Laissez-faire Economics came from the expression, “Laissez-faire, laissez-passer, le monde va de lui-même (“Left alone, the world goes by itself”).

The state required nothing more than:

  • protection against foreign invaders, (extended to include protection of overseas markets through armed intervention)
  • protection of citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, which included protection of private property, enforcement of contracts, and suppression of trade unions
  • building and maintaining public institutions, and
  • “public works” that included a stable currency, standard weights and measures, and support of roads, canals, harbours, railways, and postal and other communications services

Neo Liberalism

The concept originated in the 1930s as a response to the first major crisis of the 20 th century – the Great Depression. It continued to develop as a distinct body of thought in the face of the development of the welfare state and the increasing size and interventionism of central government. It now has its tentacles in the departments of nearly every major university economics department in the world and has confronted the other two major crises of capitalism of the last 100 years – the 1970s crisis of Keynesiasm caused by the breakdown of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971 and the banking collapse of 2008 – with more and more extreme pronouncements.

Neo Liberals believe, in essence, that markets can do no wrong – left to themselves, and over time, they will correct any imbalances. Yet Neo Liberals also accept corporate monopolies and the way in which they rig markets – an interesting conundrum and the one which is its most important aspect for us today. Multinational / corporate power now far exceeds that of states. International trade agreements like NAFTA, CETA and the proposed TTIP all demonstrate the power of Corporate lobbyists. ISDS (the interstate dispute settlement process) that is central to the TTIP process is a free pass to Corporates to take governments to a private court if their future profits are put at risk because of actions taken by government which might improve the wellbeing of the state’s workforce. (See Veiolia v The State of Egypt

There is, therefore, a redefinition of both the corporation and the individual  A corporation is redefined as an arbitrary set of contractual obligations, not the repository of any production expertise. Corporations can do no wrong or should not be blamed if they do. On the other hand the individual is seen only as an entrepreneurial self.  Every disaster is the result of risk-bearing and personal fallout from choices in investment.

On the rhetoric of the “small state” that was the watchword of the Neo Liberal revolution from Reagan and Thatcher to Osborne, there is an acute disjunct between that supposed aspiration and the actual (hidden) desire for a “coercive” state – one that will force changes in the interest of the market and thus entrap or imprison a high proportion of the population. So in brief, Neo Liberals want:

  • Free Markets
  • Small State
  • Low Tax
  • Individual Liberty
  • Big Defence

For the individual this means:

  • The monetisation of everything or the extraction of economic rent from everything.
  • I am financialised , therefore I am.
  • Anyone not willing to yield to rent or financialisation (those in social housing / libraries / health care / free education) is marginalised and risks being portrayed as ‘scroungers.’
  • There are only two classes: the wealth syphoners and the syphonees.

The Refutation of Neo Liberalism

There has been a debate on the NEON thread on this topic for some time and most recent response to this destructive system was posted by Guardian journalist, Zoe Williams (living proof that that the paper does still employ the odd genuine socialist). It is the result of a Compass meeting and is still very much work in progress, but is an excellent starting point for us to consider when we engage with people in North Somerset.

  • The wealth of a country is in its people. The real waste of a country’s resources is in failing to create the conditions in which everybody can flourish.
  • Education is a public good
  • The state is the best of all of us, combined. It is our pooled sovereignty to protect us from predators and our pooled wealth to realise our ambitions.
  • The state is not there to supplement low wages and subsidise corporate super-profits.
  • Generosity drives progress (shared ideas, shared resources), and justice drives prosperity. Both traits are innate, not cultural, and they alter very little over time. We are as generous and just as we have ever been; we are the same people that created the rule of law and the NHS.
  • Inequality is wrong because it fatally limits your bargaining power, when you’re on the arse end of it. Not because someone else has a Porsche and you want it.
  • People are worth more than the productivity they add to an economy
  • If you can do a full-time job and not be sure at the end of it that you can afford shelter, food and warmth, then there is nothing wrong with you, there is something wrong with your employer, your housing market, your food supply, your utilities’ ownership structure, or most likely, all four.
  • A state in which people cannot afford necessities is a primitive, failing one.
  • The market is quite good at answering small questions, but quite bad at answering important and/ or long-term questions.
  • Only invest in a future you’d want to live in.
  • We have the technology to answer the pressing environmental questions; or at least, the technology to bridge our needs while we figure out the rest. All we need is for stupid people not to be in charge.
  • Markets are social spaces; they need morals as much as any other space where people meet each other needs morals.

Steve Timmins is on the Executive Committee of North Somerset Constituency Labour Party and is proud to be one of the many, many new Labour supporters in the constituency fighting for a Labour victory in 2020.

It has become a regular event that is becoming known as ‘Take out the trash day‘, and it refers to the now familiar process by which the government releases a whole lot of new information and data into the public domain on the last day of parliament, with the (intended) consequence that proper scrutiny by MPs or the media is prevented.

The event in July 2016 was no exception and you can check out this article for a sense of which reports, reviews and surveys they tried to bury on this ocassion.

Hidden in plain sight among this mountain of dense and inaccessible documentation was an innocuous sounding release from NHS England, ‘Strengthening Financial Performance and Accountability 2016/2017‘ (pdf).

The only significant coverage it received was from Chris Cook l on Newsnight on July 21st (37 minutes into the program which you can see here for a limited time) and since we have a great deal of NHS experise in the constituency, we ask one of our members Dr Martin Hime for his view. Here it is.

Disclaimer: Members’ Voice is an opportunity for North Somerset Labour Party Members to express their views on the issues which are important to them. The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the membership and should not be interpreted in that way.

This Document is a reaction to the long term underfunding of the NHS. It outlines plans for both commissioning and provider organisations to become more financially responsible and accountable. It argues that the £1.8 billion to be injected into the NHS market system over the 2016-17 year will come with strings attached. The clinical commissioning groups will have to work within the financial limits set by central government or face being labelled as “in special measures”. North Somerset CCG has already been placed in this category. Provider Trusts will no longer be fined but will be given centrally defined “performance review trajectories” in the hope that their various politically sensitive targets will be met.

This is another attempt by the Government to deal with the problems created by the dysfunctional market orientated system. The £1.8 billion is not new money but will come out of other public health and social care budgets. Hunt remains wedded to the idea of a 7day NHS – an entirely unrealistic, uncosted concept whose rationale was based on the false interpretation of mortality evidence. The requirement for the NHS to make £22billion efficiency savings by 2020 remains in place and the byzantine management structure created by the Health and Social Care act continues to waste money that should be spent on patient care.

So what will this initiative do for commissioning? It will certainly create huge stresses and uncertainties in the commissioning groups. The chances that motivated GPs will be involved in commissioning in the future will diminish. The impossibility of the CCGs being able to buy the services that communities need within the budget restraints will become more obvious (maybe a good thing). CCGs will be motivated to further restrict the services that are provided by the NHS and the fiction that they are independent bodies will be further eroded.

Provider organisations will no longer be fined but will have to adhere to the extremely strict requirements dictated by the document in order to qualify for the “Sustainability and Transformation Fund”. This, in the context of a gross underfunding will further undermine the morale of NHS staff that are trying to maintain the service.

The document demonstrates the failure of the Government’s strategy on the NHS. Rather than dealing with the real reasons why the NHS is in crisis, it tries to force those that are attempting to manage it into doing the impossible.  An under-funded market driven NHS will not work. No amount of coercion will change that.

Martin Hime

Listen to the Audio here.

The real problem with the Euro referendum for us in the Labour party is not just the mind numbing boredom of the so called debate, not just the carefully packaged statistical lies from both sides, not just the appallingly second rate nature of the patronising prime movers – it’s the Blue on Blue nature of it all.  You’re probably with me in finding Cameron nauseatingly arrogant and glib, and Osborne repulsively and self importantly slimy.  Osborne’s comment that by 2030 “GDP would be over 6% smaller and Britain would be worse off by £4,300 per household if we leave” is beyond parody.  It’s absurd.  He knows it.  The Treasury knows it.  The commentariat knows it.  Indeed an economics professor whose article I was just reading stated that Osborne’s: “cost estimate suffers from myriad failings that place it in the same category as tooth fairies, worldly visitations of Christian saints and (the concept of) compassionate Conservatism.”

So could that be a vote for Out then?

Nope, it couldn’t. How can anyone vote for the bunch running the Leave campaign.  Let’s leave Farage completely out of this.  He is disgusting, but let’s not forget that Boris is dangerously right wing, Michael Gove was recently described by a journalist as looking “increasingly like a gerbil on mescaline”, and that cruel liar, Ian Duncan Smith, is right there in the thick of it.

No, so far as I am concerned the only politician who has told the truth about the EU and this referendum has been Jeremy Corbyn, and all the media, from left to right (not that there is much on the left), have excoriated him for it.  I don’t know if anyone saw him on Channel 4’s The Last Leg on Friday 10th, but he was really good.  When asked, on a scale of one to ten, where he put the EU, he said he’d give it a seven, maybe seven and a half – which is fair comment. Cameron would have given it eleven (thanks to his renegotiation) and Johnson minus one.  And now, thank God, the whole shadow cabinet is out on the road talking about the social issues not the economic.

The framing of this Blue on Blue referendum debate, it’s very nature, its position within the massive austerity con that’s been thrown at us by this government, is both false and deeply dishonest.  What have we ended up with in this country?  A government which, judged on more objective standards than are currently in evidence in the mass media, is from the hard right.  If you haven’t read Owen Jones’ book, The Establishment, it’s really worth a look.  It reminds us how, within the last forty years, what had been previously a minor, academic, economic theory became main stream thinking.  What we now call neo liberalism was invented by Hayek at the LSE, streamlined with Friedman in Chicago, tried out in the real world by the ghastly Dictator Pinochet on the backs of his army tanks in Chile, promoted by the hugely wealthy sponsors of think tanks in the UK like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs, and then worshipped by Thatcher and Reagan.

It has led directly to where we are now.  The destruction of the post war consensus, Thatcher’s much vaunted rolling back of the state, the privatisations, the continuing wholesale demolition of unionised work forces, the loading of more and more burdens on to the narrow shoulders of those already weighed down beneath low salaries, reduced benefits, job insecurity and the likelihood of minimal pensions – all this in the fifth richest economy in the world – in a country where top CEOs, not just in the City but in supposedly public service corporations like the BBC, “reward” themselves with vastly inflated salaries whilst maintaining beneath them a precariat of ill paid, frightened employees on temporary contracts.  In Mike Ashley, the repulsive, barrage balloon owner of Sports Direct, we see a shining example of what our country has become.

This is the frame within which we have been obliged to study the In / Out debate.  The EU did not cause the UK’s austerity.  Osborne and Cameron did.  The EU did not cause the massive homeless problem in London, Boris Johnson did.  The EU did not cut benefits to the UK’s poor and disabled.  Ian Duncan Smith did.  The EU did not attempt the commercialisation of our education system and promote the building of for-profit Academy chains in the UK, Michael Gove did.  The EU did not attempt to destroy the NHS, Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt did.

Now, forgive me, please, for a brief romp through the history of the EU.  It was founded in the 1950s initially to ensure a cartel for coal and steel designed originally to stop further arms races.  France, of course, in the 1950s, had thousands of small farmers and wanted protection for them from overseas food suppliers so the Common Agricultural Policy was invented to subsidise their structural inefficiencies.  But what many people don’t realise is the key role played by the USA in all of this.  Initially, after the war, the USA wanted Germany to become a pastoral economy in order to stop any build up of armaments once and for all.  But they couldn’t maintain this.  Why not?  Because of the USA’s position as the world’s biggest economy.  The world’s economic structure is, obviously, based on a balance between surpluses and deficits.  Those countries with a surplus need those countries with deficits to invest in and buy goods from.  So as, in the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, the USA was the world’s dominant economy, the Marshall plan was not some kind of beneficent largesse thrown at Europe.  It was a way of guaranteeing a super puppet state of Europe which would create economic happiness for the USA by guaranteeing that the dollar remained the key world currency on their terms.  After the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944, the value of gold was fixed against the dollar – at $35 to the ounce.  This could not be changed.

Anyway, Germany was never going to be a pastoral economy, not with all that steel and coal on the Ruhr.  So by the mid ‘60s we saw the fully fledged German Economic Miracle and funnily enough we also saw General de Gaul sending his finance minister, Valery Giscard-Destaing to Germany to propose a new pan-European currency.  This was de Gaulle – of all people – proposing an early version of the Euro.  His idea was, of course, to try and stop American world financial domination and, of course, the Germans turned it down!  Why on earth would they want to tie their booming export based economy into a finance structure, alongside an economy as dodgy as France’s?  So onwards and upwards.  In 1971 President Nixon was manouevred by his advisers into removing the fixed relationship between gold and the dollar.  They told him that America was buying too much from outside and the surplus / deficit balance was teetering.  This act plunged Europe into crisis.  In 1973, France finally had to agree to let Britain join what had become the EEC and everyone hoped against hope that, despite the OPEC oil price rise, some kind of potentially stable economic structure had been created in which we could all benefit from a closed European market with high external tariffs.  And it was stable-ish – until the arrival of Jacques Delors, first as French Finance Minister, and then in the ‘80s, as president of the European Commission and, what had been an economic relationship, now strayed into the dangerous grounds of social engineering and the start of the attempt to create an ever closer union.  What Delors did, as France’s finance minister, was to convince the French president (Mitterand) that his country’s massive problems with their anti-austerity programme should be shifted from the shoulders of the French electorate to the shoulders of the whole EEC.  And there you go – increasing European integration meant that, almost at a stroke, you could start blaming outsiders for all your internal economic woes.

And all this time the once minor economic theory became mainstream and the economic world gradually became more and more right wing and more and more self interested and self satisfied with their “success”.  Those of us who lived through the Thatcher years were actually relieved when the most right wing Labour government ever came to power in 1997, but by then neo liberalism had taken hold of the economics departments of all the world’s major universities, inequality was as widely accepted as the ridiculous concept of the “trickle down” benefits of extreme wealth at the top of society.  And inequality grew and grew and still grows and for the 99%, wages, in real terms, have scarcely risen since the 1970s.

So, apologies for that very superficial romp, but I did it because it is important to realise that today, the economic arguments over the EU Referendum have only been stated in these neo liberal terms, the terms of the Tories’ right wing, ideological commitment to deregulation and the freedom for globalised finance to do whatever it wants wherever it wants – but no freedom of movement, of course, for cowed workers.  All these neo liberals want is the removal of any barriers to trade and flows of capital, and the permanent weakening of social and employment protection, where the 1% thrive and the 99% are grateful for whatever scraps they can pick up.

This, therefore, can be summed up as the Tory Remain position.  Less and less commitment to the EU as a socially cohesive entity and more and more commitment to unfettered access to it as the world’s largest market.

And of course my opening comment about the referendum being a being a Blue on Blue row returns because the Tory Brexit campaign shares exactly the same ideology as the Remainers.  And as all that seems to matter to both sides is a row about a disgustingly unequal economic future, what the hell are they fighting about?  Those of us in the Labour movement who believe in a managed economy which looks after the interests of working people and offers decent social protection, but who also think of ourselves as part of Europe, have, until now, been excluded from the “mainstream” economic debate.  And this is why Jeremy Corbyn’s job has been so difficult, and this I why it is only now, when the emptiness of the economic arguments have been revealed, that we are seeing Labour coming to dominate the closing days of the campaign.

But of course you can see why Cameron and Osborne have continued to put on their silly hard hats and Hi Vis jackets in various factories and focus constantly on fear and negativity.  It’s because while they are voting to remain In, they oppose all the aspects of the European Union that serve the interests of the 99% and so fear and loathing are the only arguments they have left.  They are just telling big business and the City of London that the Tories may be for remaining in the EU but they will also be continuing their implacable opposition to the rights of workers.  The Tory government seeks an EU in which capital dominates and protection of workers’ rights is non-existent.

So the current position is relatively simple and clear.  If we stay in, and the Tories stay in power, we are going to become increasingly marginalised within the EU because of Cameron’s joke  “renegotiation” and if we leave, it is almost certain that the pound will sink and for an indeterminate time – maybe not more than for a couple of years – the economy will struggle.  Worse still, thanks to Cameron, we are currently aligned with the far right within Europe and aligned with Boris Johnson’s anti-immigrant, xenophobic little England gibberish if we leave.

So by now you may be wondering where I’m going with all this.  After all I’m saying we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  Well I’m already damned.  I have a postal vote and last week I voted… to Stay In.

Why?  You may… or may not, ask.

Because, actually, I have beliefs!  And NOT beliefs – I do not believe there is such a thing as the third way.  I do not believe that we should be happy with people becoming filthy rich.  I DO believe in social equality, justice, public service for ALL the people and I do believe that a Labour Government under the likes of Jeremy Corbyn is the only chance we will ever have of achieving these aims, and where better to try and achieve them than from within the European Union.

If we vote Out now we know it will never happen.

So finally just a few positives about the EU among the many negatives that it is foolish to deny exist.

Between 2014 and 2020 a total of €351.8 billion in EU regeneration and structural investment and €16.4 billion of that will find its way to some of the most deprived areas in the UK.

And the social chapter and other directives from Europe has already delivered… to:

  • Over 26 million workers in Britain who benefit from being entitled to 28 days of paid leave and a limit to how many hours they can be forced to work;
  • To over eight million part-time workers (over six million of whom are women) who have equal rights with full-time colleagues;
  • To over one million temporary workers who have the same rights as permanent workers;
  • To 340,000 women every year who have guaranteed rights to take maternity leave.

These are genuine reasons that any member of the Labour party would want to quote to voters to stay in.  It’s pretty nearly impossible to argue the case for immigration.  As we have seen from the blatant lies of our own MP the issue is too clouded with myth and counter myth.  All we can say is that in North Somerset the impact of immigration has been and will be negligible.  And thanks to Paul Dunn and Angela  for their (unpublished) letters to the local paper correcting Liam Fox’s lies.  If anyone wants to take on this fight they could do a lot worse than read these letters and use them when dealing with voters.

So, what I feel is, if we got Out we would be following a type of Victorian self satisfaction, the warped belief that white imperial Britain does best when left to its own devices, to its own values and to its own identity.  This would lead Britain into what feels to be both a familiar and a wholly new territory of rabid nationalism of the type which generated two world wars and a host of developing world conflicts.

None of us want this.  However imperfect we may think Europe is, and it most certainly is, its ideals far outshine the prevailing UK ideology and we should vote to stay in it to change it for the better.

Steve Timmins is on the Executive Committee of North Somerset Constituency Labour Party and is proud to be one of the many, many new Labour supporters in the constituency fighting for a Labour victory in 2020 under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn

Important Correction

In our earlier version of this post we incorrectly stated that:

“Between 2014 and 2020 a total of £351.8 billion in EU regeneration and structural investment will find its way to some of the most deprived areas in the UK.”

It has been brought to our attention that there are 2 errors in this statement: First of all the £351.8 billion figure should be €351.8 billion – Euros not Pounds Sterling. Secondly, the €351.8 billion figure is actually the Regional Development budget for the whole of the EU – see (pdf) – and we should have stated that only some of these funds will find their way to the UK,

In fact the total allocation of EU funds to the UK (via the European Structural and Investment Funds which are the vehicle for delivering Regional Policy) is €16,417,082,032 – see

Though an error in transcription and interpretation from source documents, it is clearly significant and we should have identified it earlier. Though we apologise sincerely for providing misleading information, our overarching argument still stands, that crucial funds are distributed broadly across some of the most deprived areas in the UK and across the continent.

Its impact

“The collective income earned by the world’s richest 100 people in 2012 alone could end extreme poverty four times over”  

“The richest one percent has increased its income by 60 percent in the last 20 years with the financial crisis accelerating rather than slowing the process”

Oxfam, January 2015

The scale of inequality in the world is quite simply shocking and is getting worse with the gap between the world’s richest and poorest continuing to widen. This situation is most dramatic at a global level but inequality is also a major issue within the UK – the World Health Organisation reports that the life expectancy of a man in the Calton neighbourhood of Glasgow is just 54 years, 28 years less than that of a man in Lenzie, just a few kilometres away.

Reducing inequalities appeals to our sense of fairness and social justice but it also benefits all of us as it has been widely shown that everyone benefits where incomes are more equal – high levels of inequality are linked to economic instability, more violent societies and communities with much less social cohesion.

The current UK situation

The average annual income of a CEO of FTSE100 company is £4.3m, the average UK worker’s income is £26,500                                                                       (the Equality Trust)

When judged on differences in income, the UK has the 4th most unequal society of 30 countries in the developed world.  In 2010 (the latest year for which data is available), 45% of all wealth in the UK was held by the richest 10% whilst the poorest 10% held only 1% of the country’s wealth.

Given the evidence that more equal societies fair better over-all we might expect that governments of wealthy nations would prioritise addressing inequalities, striving to improve life for all of their citizens.  Labour party members may not be surprised to learn that from a high point in the 1930s, inequalities in the UK fell dramatically after the war until 1979 at which point the differences between rich and poor started to widen again until 1991 and, since then, the gap has remained relatively unaltered.  Far from working to reduce this gap, cancellation of initiatives aimed at reducing inequalities such as Surestart, cuts to local authority and Public Health budgets and dramatic reductions in welfare entitlements, alongside an increasing focus on blaming the poor for their own poverty may lead us to fear for the future. Foodbanks are currently opening at the rate of two a week and the number of people provided with three days’ emergency food rose from just under 350,000 in 2012/13 to over 900,000 in 2013/14.   In addition, since the start of the economic downturn, the percentage of people who are unable to meet unexpected financial expenses has increased to 36.6% and the proportion of people unable to afford an annual holiday is now 29.7% (Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK and EU, ONS 2011)

The North Somerset situation

North Somerset is the 7th most unequal district in the UK – whilst some residents are within the 1% most affluent people in the country, others are amongst the 1% most deprived. Even in a relatively affluent area such as Clevedon, 2% of children live in poverty and the food-bank opens twice a week receiving 1-3 requests for basic food at each session and in Weston-super-Mare South the proportion of children living in poverty rises to 44%.  (North Somerset Council Indices of Deprivation Briefing Note).  This inequality has a dramatic impact – a man living in one of the most affluent areas of the district can expect to live an average 10 years longer than a man from one of the poorest areas (for a woman the difference is 7.5 years).

The council’s Child Poverty Strategy, which aims to reduce local child poverty by 2020, recognises that broader social issues need to be understood in order to do this.  It reports that:

  • Educational outcomes for those on free school meals at all assessment stages are significantly below other children and below the national average.
  • Levels of debt and benefit claims related enquires to the Citizens Advice Bureau are increasing
  • The number of Job Seekers Allowance claimants has risen more sharply in more deprived areas.
  • Demand for housing in North Somerset outstrips supply.
  • Transport for children in deprived rural areas remains a challenge.
  • Children and Young People’s Services are concerned about many aspects of poverty

What can we do about inequalities?

The scale of global inequalities seems overwhelming but there are things we can do both at a national and local level.

Louise Branch


Active CLP Member Peter Harris recounts his recent trip to Budapest

Well here we are in Budapest.

What could be better after a right kicking by the Tories, than sitting in the sunshine with good company Watching Musical Fountains. If you look on youtube you can find more examples; some illuminated at night. I think it should be labour party policy to build such fountains in every town in the country after building some houses of course.

The people here are generous and hospitable. Arriving at Budapest airport on Tuesday night, a lady who had been on our flight, but we hadn’t spoken to, stopped us getting money from the exchange, for a bus or taxi, saying that the rate was an absolute rip-off and as her husband was waiting to pick her up they would give us a lift into Budapest to our hotel. We are most grateful to Krisztina andJanesh for that kindness though this was not the only example of warmth and kindness we received during our stay

At the time we left for Hungry there was a lot of talk about our defeat being the responsibility of the ‘Shy Tories’. I don’t mind the ‘Shy Tories’, at least they appreciate they have something to be ashamed of. It is the proud, arrogant Tories who have no sense of shame and vote the way they do out of pure selfishness and self interest that I am most concerned about.

Budapest has many attractions. Restaurants, bars, and spas, one of which has a giant whirlpool where you can just lie back and gently spin round and round. It also has a hop on hop off bus service for tourists where you can buy a ticket for a very reasonable fee which enables you to hop on one of these buses, plug-in a headset, listen to the commentary of what you should be seeing from the bus, hop off where ever you like, have a look around, and hop back on where you like, and you can use this service for 48 hours.

What they don’t tell you is that there are in fact four companies running this service. They all have their own routes, albeit all the routes overlap at various points, and they all provide maps of their own routes (for artistic interpretation rather than navigation). These buses uses the same stops as the municipal buses, but number their stops according to their own whim.

Consequently, you walk along the road and find hop on hop off bus stop 13, which according to your map is stop 17. There is nothing to show that is the stop for another bus company and your bus stop is actually about 10 yards round the corner or just down some stairs and under the bridge. On your map stop 13 is 2 miles away on the other side of the river. Sometimes bus stops have been removed from the route altogether so you go to say the Market Hall beside the Danube and you search and search the bus stop number 6 only to told eventually, that stop 6 no longer exists. Getting on the wrong bus will only result in advice from the driver that you are on the wrong bus but if you want to ride you are welcome to, albeit you have no idea where it is going.

It may be of course that the hop on hop off bus service is something that the Hungarian government has created in order to show what a laissez faire system has to offer, however the bus ride you can get in Budapest is nothing to mystery tour we are going on over the next five years and magical certainly will not describe it.

Janet and I had a lovely five days in Budapest and certainly recommend it. Here is a photograph of two buckets of goulash we had just before we came home.


Peter Harris  17/05/2015

From Hedley Woods, former Chairman and WebAdmin for North Somerset CLP. Hedley has written an intro to a Guardian business leader about the manner in which overseas Governments are acquiring our publicly owned organisations through Tory privatisation.

When Tory privatisation means nationalisation

According to the Tory party script the private sector is good and the public sector is a drain on scares resources.   So the very word ‘nationalisation’ must be avoid at all costs and ‘take back into public ownership’ is risky.   So it may surprise you to know that some privatisations have led to nationalisation.

Here are a few examples.

In the energy sector one of the main beneficiaries of Tory privatisation has been EDF.   EDF or to give it its full name Électricité De France is owned by the French state.

According to many polls the majority of people in the UK wish our railways to be state owned.  They are:

Abellio, a unit of the Dutch national rail operator, has a 10-year contract ScotRail franchise for running train services in Scotland.

Arriva, which is owned by Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, runs five UK rail contracts, including CrossCountry and Arriva Trains Wales.

Keolis, controlled by the French state rail company SNCF, is the joint operator of four franchises, including Southeastern and London Midland. They have been shortlisted for the London-to-Edinburgh east coast route (currently a UK state owned organisation) in a joint bid with SNCF-backed Eurostar.

Read more here: