We need to have a government that considers itself a shareholder in society

Belatedly, I have noticed that even the Evening Standard is getting fed up with government by chaos.

They opine:

Like the NHS, the country’s welfare system is operating with absolutely no slack — we are keeping a large number of people on incomes so low they can barely survive from day to day. One of the many problems with this is that whenever there is a shock to the system — a pandemic, a rise in energy bills, inflation — people simply cannot pay their bills and you get a crisis. 

Quite – and a remarkable from this newspaper, which I think is still edited by David Cameron’s sister in law…

And

Londoners, meanwhile, are in the epicentre of two additional crises. This week we received news of the largest annual rise in bus and Tube fares in a decade — a result, as an Evening Standard editorial comment put it, of Transport for London “living hand to mouth”.  As the Standard has long argued, rather than being allowed to lurch from meltdown to meltdown, TfL needs a proper settlement. Patching it up, or even managing its decline, is expensive….

To draw attention to the public transport crisis in London, while London has had two cash injections lasting simply a fortnight each as BBC London’s transport correspondent has reported, how on earth can you run the vast organisation that is Transport for London on a fortnightly basis – it is madness. Purposeless chaos….

It stems from government seeing itself as a reluctantly benificent capitalist who doesn’t have shares in TfL and certainly doesn’t have shares in society. That is a problem that manifests itself outside London as well, where local bus companies – most of them are of course national operations, and keen to preserve ‘shareholder value’ – are decidedly worried because they have no assurances on continuing support even while passenger numbers are down 20% or so on pre-pandemic levels and service reductions will obviously put off many passengers. There is currently no government help beyond the beginning of April. No commercial company can realistically exist on this basis. Although I’m no fan of the private bus companies, this is a simple expression of f*** business. No wonder Labour has suggested that it is they who are the party of business.

Anecdotally my local bus route has declined from a pre-pandemic frequency of every 10-12 minutes to every half hour. That is no longer a turn up and go frequency.and will not improve patronage – the local management say that further frequency reductions are likely. The everlasting spiral of decline that has been characteristic of the overwhelming majority of private bus companies will progress further downwards. This, as this chaotic government may not have noted, is the wrong direction for ‘levelling up’, of which better bus provision was thought to be a significant part.

If we are to get people out of cars government has to be resolute and put money into public transport. And stop its commercial basis – it is a societal good and not simply just a potentially profitable enterprise for the benefit of shareholders.

We really need to have a government that needs to consider itself at a minimum, as a shareholder in society which is required to act in the best interests of that society – and not one that drifts and stutters when its own ideology bumps up against reality.

And government failure to admit that it creates money costlessly in order to get things done is, of course, integral to this chaos.

Comments

  1. Andrew -

    As I understand it, Emily Sheffield (sister of Samantha Cameron née Sheffield) succeeded George Osborne as editor of the Evening Standard in July 2020, but the acting editor since October 2021 has been Charlotte Ross.

    1. Peter May -

      Fair enough – should I ask what relation to the Tory Party Charlotte Ross has? 🙂

      1. Andrew -

        Her personally, I don’t know. She had a career in journalism before joining the newspaper in 2006, at one stage co-founding and editing a short-lived feminist magazine in Scotland.

        But since 2009 her boss has been the son of a former senior KGB officer. I also don’t know how close the father is to Putin – somehow he became a billionaire – but I believe the son is a friend of the blond journalist now serving as prime minister, and he now has a life peerage.

        So I remain a little sceptical about the newspaper taking a line opposing the government. (But does anyone read the Standard nowadays?)

  2. Schofield -

    “We really need to have a government that needs to consider itself at a minimum, as a shareholder in society which is required to act in the best interests of that society …”

    Richard Murphy’s article on challenging ONS’s accounting on interest paid on gilts by the states speaks volumes in terms of the skewed mentality existing in the minds of most people in the UK in regard to the above. Rather than understanding it to be a positive benefit for the domestic non-government sector that the state pays interest on “safe” gilts saving it’s interpreted as being a negative stick to beat the state with! The perversity of thinking in ONS beggars belief. What should be on the positive side of a national balance sheet simply isn’t!

    https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2022/02/23/the-pubic-sector-interest-cost-revisited/

    1. Peter May -

      Much agree with the idea::
      “understanding it to be a positive benefit for the domestic non-government sector that the state pays interest on “safe” gilts saving it’s interpreted as being a negative stick to beat the state with!”
      It’s a smart Thatcher neolib ahievement so many have been convinced of the correctness of the precise opposite of the actuality…

    1. Peter May -

      Incredible..

  3. Peter May -

    @ Andrew
    If the Standard is thrust into their hand, I reckon they will. But it must be mightily dependant on commuting…

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