Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nationalise Vauxhall!

This post appears on the website of CPO supporter Charlie Marks, and is reproduced with kind permission of the author.

Car production in the UK is efficient, let no one fool you about this. Plants which produce cars are linked to plants which produce parts – there’s a supply chain to consider. Also, many work in other services which are dependent upon skilled workers spending their wages.

We need to have cars which are energy efficient – though effective demand has slumped globally, we all know this is due to our chaotic economic system, not to the car being made obsolete.

It’s not Rover!

Four years ago Rover went under – the government could have nationalised the company and set up a joint-venture with the Chinese, the company ended up in China selling to their domestic market.

Instead the government let Rover go, and now many of the skilled workers formerly employed by the company are in lower skilled and lower paid jobs.

The same mistake cannot be made again – the government has bailed out the banks which have failed to get lending again.

There’s no doubt that if Vauxhall is bailed out, we’ll see a return – with new energy efficient cars being made at UK plants for sale across the world as demand recovers.


Whilst other EU govts get their checquebooks out, the UK govt is nowhere to be seen. At the negotiations, there’s no one to represent car workers in Luton and Ellesmere Port – remember, UK workers are easiest for big businesses to sack in the EU.
It’s a sickening sight – “Lord” Peter Mandelson pretending he’s got a guarantee against mass lay-offs and blaming unions for scaring workers when he knows that’s what will happen.

At least he’s the sense to stop wittering on about protectionism – we all know that when the rich cry poverty the money flows from the government to protect their corrupt system.

But when thousands of skilled workers face uncertainty, New Labour are too spineless to step up to defend them, fearful of a backlash from the super-rich. Mandelson and co. are so eager to please them that they will allow no concessions to working people – look at his actions over Royal Mail where most people oppose privatisation, even within New Labour.

The threat of a good example!

Car workers at Luton and Ellesmere Port can follow the example of the Visteon workers who occupied their plants to demand justice.

There would be no shortage of support, no limit to the solidarity that others would demonstrate.

We own the banks now – we can get them to invest in the car industry.

Don’t despair – organise, occupy, nationalise!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Railcard fares rise by up to 50%

The Guardian reports:

Passengers who use railcards to buy discounted off-peak tickets have reacted with fury after it emerged that train companies increased the cost of using and buying railcards last Sunday.

The Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), which runs the railcard system, admitted today that the cost of using Young Persons', Friends and Family, and Network railcards had risen by up to 50% for passengers who use their cards during the week. It also said it had increased the cost of buying the cards substantially.
The unannounced changes came in to force last weekend. However, the first that most passengers knew about it was the appearance of boards announcing the new fares at station ticket offices on Monday morning.

Around 2.2m rail passengers use railcards, which mostly give a 33% discount on off-peak train fares. The changes mean students and other young people using a railcard, which costs £26 a year, will see their minimum fare rise from £8 to £12.
Members of the armed services face the same increase in the minimum fare on their HM Forces railcard. Pensioners, meanwhile, are being forced to pay 8% more for their railcard.

The minimum cost of using a Network card, which offers discounts on journeys in London and the south-east, has risen by nearly a third from £10 to £13. Meanwhile, the card itself now costs £25 a year – a 25% increase on last year's price.

Atoc's move was described by furious passengers as the latest "assault" on fares. In January, unregulated fares rose by an average of 6%, and there were further price hike on some routes in April. The railcard increase is the third this year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Latest Privatised Railway Scam: £5 extra just to be sure of getting a seat

From Microsoft News

Union leaders are accusing a leading train company of "mugging" its passengers by starting to charge them to reserve a seat.

From this weekend, National Express plans to introduce a fee of £2.50 for reserving a single or £5 for a return ticket on its East Coast and East Anglia franchises.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association - which revealed the plan - said it was "outrageous".

Booking clerks have told the union they are worried about the reaction they'll receive from passengers when they ask for the extra cash.

TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty said: "This is an outrageous imposition on millions of passengers and amounts to the fourth increase in o
verall prices in just five months.

"What National Express is now saying to passengers is that, if you want to be sure of sitting down on their trains for a return journey, then you will have to pay an extra £5 for a return journey or £2.50 for a single.

"That is simply mugging passengers for an extra fiver, and it will hit the elderly and families the hardest.
"They cannot risk being forced to stand on long journeys from Newcastle to London and therefore they will be forced to pay the extra."

TSSA officials - who have been pressing the Government to halt increases in rail fares - say it is the highest seat booking charge ever imposed by a private rail company.

It comes as the East Coast franchise holder is reportedly trying to renegotiate its contract with the Government.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Greed's still good

This article on public ownership by CPO co-founder Neil Clark appears in the Morning Star.

With the Conservative Party riding high in the opinion polls, the fanatically neoliberal "there is no such thing as society" brigade are becoming less reticent about voicing their obnoxious opinions in public.

Take Fraser Nelson, writing in the latest edition of the Spectator magazine.

Nelson argues that, while the 1980s mantra "greed is good" has become unfashionable, it is still true. We have, it seems, forgotten that wealth generates revenue, while high taxes - Nelson, like fellow neoliberals is incensed by the new 50 per cent top rate of tax for high earners - "crush prosperity and pauperise nations."

Instead of being regarded as a villain, Gordon Gekko, the ultra-selfish trader played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film Wall Street, should be regarded as a wealth-creating hero.

What utter claptrap.

Nothing has done more to destroy British society and its economy than the naked greed and cult of selfishness unleashed by the Thatcherites in the '80s. To argue that the solution to our current ills is even more greed is like a politician in the devastated and defeated Germany of 1945 calling for more nazism.

As for the claim that high taxes crush prosperity and pauperise nations, Nelson has clearly never visited Norway.

The northern European country did exactly the opposite to what Thatcherites like Nelson were advocating in the 1980s.

Instead of privatising its oil industry, it nationalised it and set up a State Petroleum Fund. And it used high taxes in order to redistribute wealth and extend a welfare state where all citizens are cared for from the cradle to the grave. The result of these socialist policies is that Norway is now the third richest country in the world.

Aren't we lucky in Britain that we were rescued from going down the same path by Margaret Thatcher.

One cut they won't make

THE next Conservative government will, according to David Cameron, be a "government of thrift."

I've no doubt that spending on the NHS, state education and welfare provision will be slashed if the strong neoliberal faction within the party gets its way. But there's one cost-saving measure I'm fairly sure Dave and his chums won't introduce.

Renationalising British transport would save the country a fortune. Britain's railways companies receive over four times more in taxpayers subsidy than the much-maligned British Rail did in the last years of its existence. It's a similar story of government extravagance when it comes to subsiding private bus companies, which received £2.5bn from the public purse last year.

So, when a Tory or, indeed, a Labour or Lib Dem canvasser next comes to your door asking for your support, ask them why, if the public finances really are in such a bad shape, their parties refuse to advocate such a sensible, cost-saving measure.

A ticket to profits

THE year 1969. A man landed on the moon, Swindon stunned Arsenal in the League Cup final and Charles de Gaulle stepped down as president of France. It was also the year that Harold Wilson's Labour government set up the National Bus Company.

Established by the Transport Act a year earlier, the National Bus Company brought together all the state's bus interests in one company.

The way the system worked was simple. Buses were run locally by subsidiaries such as Midland Red or Southern Vectis while intercity coaches operated under the National Express banner.

There was even a national holiday company offering cheap coach holidays to different parts of the country.

This co-ordinated and efficient system was destroyed when the National Bus Company was broken up and privatised by the Thatcher government in the 1980s. We were told that privatising and deregulating bus transport would lead to greater competition and lower prices.

Instead, we have a situation where cash-strapped local authorities are effectively blackmailed by private operators into handing over ever more money in order to maintain services.

The Morning Star has already reported on the obscene case of fat-cat Go Ahead group chief executive Keith Ludeman, whose salary last year topped £910,000 and whose company has received millions of pounds in public subsidies, expressing his displeasure that Britain's pensioners, after a lifetime of work, have the benefit of free travel on buses. "Pensioners cannot be given a blank cheque," Ludeman complained.

But if anyone has been given a blank cheque these past 20 years it has been the profiteering private bus operators, which have made a fortune from the British taxpayer since Thatcher's destruction of the National Bus Company.